Trump’s upcoming rally in Topeka to draw supporters and protesters from Lawrence

photo by: Associated Press

In this file photo from March 5, 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus site in Wichita, Kan. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Lawrence residents will be showing up to President Donald Trump’s rally in Topeka Saturday, some to hear him speak and others to hold signs of protest.

Garrett Miller, chair of the University of Kansas’ chapter of College Republicans, said he and anywhere from 20 to 50 others from the group planned to attend the rally. Miller, who said he himself had already seen Trump multiple times, said that the rally was a good opportunity for people to come out and hear the president.

“I’m enthusiastic about it,” Miller said. “The last time Trump was in Kansas, it was briefly during the primary season way back in 2016. So, for people that haven’t been able to make it out to a rally in a big city, or if they are not from Washington, D.C., or don’t have any connections, people can wait in line and listen to the president.”

Trump’s campaign announced the rally last week. The Kansas Republican Party said Trump would be campaigning on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach and 2nd District congressional candidate Steve Watkins.

The rally also comes amid contentious national debate surrounding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He has denied allegations by Christine Blasey Ford, who testified last week that he sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in 1982. At a rally Tuesday in Mississippi, Trump mocked Ford’s testimony, drawing laughter and cheers from the audience.

As the FBI wrapped up an investigation Wednesday evening into the Kavanaugh allegations, the Senate has been poised to vote on his advancement to the high court.

Lawrence resident Madeline Dickerson, a law student at Washburn University, said she would be protesting the rally Saturday and advocating for immigrants, women and survivors of sexual violence. Dickerson said that women don’t have equal representation at the top and that if they don’t show up they won’t be heard. She said that’s especially important following Trump’s comments regarding Ford.

“This is an opportunity for us to be heard, because right now we’re being mocked,” Dickerson said. “And I want to show that, instead of being mocked, we are gathering, we are strong, and we are women who can come together. And we can have men who are our allies come with us and stand behind us and show that we are supported.”

Dickerson is one of more than 600 people who responded to a Facebook event to protest the rally. Another 3,500 people have indicated they are interested in the protest. The political action committee Kobach is Wrong for Kansas, which describes itself as a research-based information campaign opposing Kobach, created the Facebook event and is one of several groups that have indicated support for the protest.

Kobach is Wrong for Kansas Research Director Zachary Mueller said that while he knew people would independently show up on their own to protest the rally, the group wanted to provide an organized space for people of color who feel attacked by the policies of Trump and Kobach. Mueller noted in particular Kobach’s support for anti-immigrant policies and voter identification laws, which he called a threat to democracy and American ideals.

“It’s important that we stand up and defend (our ideals) when they are challenged,” Mueller said. “I really think Kris Kobach’s candidacy and his policies are a threat to those ideals. If it was a different Republican governor or a different president that wasn’t creating a challenge to that, it might not be necessary for us to go out and do a protest.”

The KU chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is another organization supporting the protest. The chapter will be hosting a sign-making event at the Kansas Union from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, and chapter President Cody Campbell said they would also be coordinating carpools from Lawrence to Topeka to protest. Campbell said he thought the protest was important as a means to oppose Kobach’s voter identification laws and to support people’s constitutional rights, especially the rights of minorities.

“So making sure that as a democracy and society, that their rights are still kept and secured by the United States Constitution,” Campbell said.

For his part, though, Miller said the rally and political endorsements of Trump were important. He said that Republicans wanted to make sure the 2nd District congressional seat remained Republican. He thinks the Trump base will vote for whomever the president endorses.

“It’s not a surprise that he is going to be endorsing all the Republicans,” Miller said. “With (U.S. Rep.) Lynn Jenkins retiring, we want to protect the House for multiple reasons.”

The Trump rally will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre, 1 Expocentre Drive, in Topeka. An event page on Trump’s website states the doors will open at 3:30 p.m.


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