President Donald Trump will be visiting the City of Greenville today to host a campaign rally at 7 p.m. in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, located on East Carolina University’s campus, and political city officials and residents continue to speak out about the event.
Gary Weaver, chairman of the Pitt County GOP (Republican party), said President Trump visiting Greenville will present an opportunity not many people get to experience, and residents and students should take advantage of this time, regardless of their political affiliations.
“It’s a great opportunity because you get to see a sitting president of the United States, something that a lot of people in this world have never seen,” Weaver said. “Even if they despise him or love him or if it’s a Democrat, a lot of people have never seen a sitting president, and to go listen to him give a speech in person like that, it’s a great opportunity and it’s something you can tell your kids and grandkids. I encourage everyone to try and come out.”
Weaver said Trump visiting Greenville shows he has an appreciation for small towns and rural locations, rather than only maintaining a focus on big cities.
“I think it shows that he is interested and cares about rural America, and I think it looks well for eastern North Carolina and that he cares about us,” Weaver said.
Weaver said he thinks Trump may have chosen to hold his rally in Greenville at Minges Coliseum in order to have a large enough venue to support as many people as possible while still being indoors.
Weaver said Trump coming to ECU’s campus will positively impact the area by bringing in people to Greenville who will generate revenue for the city by eating at local restaurants and staying in local hotels.
Weaver said North Carolina has experienced low unemployment and a better economy under Trump’s presidency. He said this growth can be seen in Greenville with new buildings around ECU and in uptown Greenville. He hopes this growth will continue to be prevalent if voters choose to re-elect Trump in the 2020 election.
Sonny McLawhorn, chairman of the Pitt County Democratic Party, said he believes most people in Pitt County do not support Trump, and he is not the most dominant choice among voters in Pitt County.
“The folks who support Trump may be the loudest voices, but they are not the most informed voters,” McLawhorn said. “He (Trump) is certainly entitled to be here. He certainly has a significant and vocal following, but he did not win Pitt County (in 2016).”
Conservative media can be a cause of this lack of information which some Trump supporters experience, according to McLawhorn. He said people should try to be open to various sources of media and information to receive the most accurate information.
McLawhorn said he predicts North Carolina will be a battleground state in the 2020 election. He said although Trump has done exceedingly well at winning conservative states, he thinks eastern North Carolina is looked over.
“Trump has done so well in conservative areas like winning Kentucky by 30 points, that I think they kind of take Eastern North Carolina for granted, but I don’t take it for granted,” McLawhorn said. “I think North Carolina will definitely be a battleground because there are a significant number of people who support him and another significant number of people who think we could do a lot better than Donald Trump.”
McLawhorn said he supports demonstrators who choose to exercise their first amendment right to express their feelings prior to the rally taking place in Minges Coliseum.
According to McLawhorn, media exposure will be “heavy” the day of Trump’s rally due to Robert Mueller’s testimony falling on the same day.
“The eyes of the nation will be drawn to what’s going on in the country,” McLawhorn said. “We can see what’s going on in Washington, that is Robert Mueller is testifying in person before Congress, but I think the natural juxtaposition is ‘what is Trump doing’, (and) how is the country reacting.”
McLawhorn said one reason Trump is holding a rally could be to promote his image through media exposure and increase his popularity, as he has done in the past.
According to Wilson Brown, president of ECU College Democrats, ECU College Democrats said in an emailed statement to The East Carolinian the group would regularly welcome any sitting president who chose to visit Greenville, regardless of party affiliation. However, according to the statement, Trump will spread “cheap rhetoric we have heard countless times before.”
“These rallies are nothing more than the president pandering to his base, ranting of a ‘deep-state,’ Hillary’s emails and unfair treatment by media organizations,” the statement said. “We may be college students, but we know childish behavior when we see it. A real leader would not whine, as Trump does daily, when they hear something they do not like, they would instead seek to appeal or listen to the concerns of the populace.”
In the statement, the ECU College Democrats said they support the protests before the rally, which involve family separation at the U.S. border.
The ECU College Republicans said in a statement on Twitter, “@RealDonaldTrump the East Carolina University College Republicans are excited and proud you will be hosting a MAGA rally at our university! If you have not already, register for your tickets to the rally!”