Pres. Donald Trump's Thursday campaign rally in Huntington is expected to draw thousands of not just Trump supporters from the tri-state area, but also protestors.
While the city doesn’t have any say in what goes on inside the event, they are responsible for what happens outside, where tensions could run high.
“West Virginians have been conned.”
Forty-two-year-old Amie Maynard is a Huntington native who says while she’s not a registered Democrat, she also didn’t vote for Donald Trump in the previous election.
Now that the president is coming to her hometown, campaigning for a re-election that’s still three years away, Maynard wants to send a message to her fellow West Virginians and the rest of the country.
“We want to let others know that though Trump did have a lot of support in West Virginia, at least around the time of the election, that not all of West Virginia supports him,” she said.
Maynard volunteers with West Virginia Women’s March and Tri-state Indivisible, two groups who have protested the Trump administration in the past and plan to do so again Thursday in Huntington.
City officials have spent just about a week preparing for the campaign rally at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
The venue that holds 9,000 people will handle what happens inside and on its front plaza, in coordination with the Secret Service, but what happens on the city streets surrounding the arena, that is up to the Huntington Police Department.
“Our police department has been working with the Secret Service, with various law enforcement agencies in this county and the surrounding region as well to make sure that the president’s visit goes very smoothly, that it goes efficiently, and that everyone from the rally attendees to the protestors are kept safe,” Brian Chambers, communications director for Huntington, said Wednesday.
Maynard said her groups expect anywhere from 20 to 300 protestors to join them at the 4 o’clock rally outside the arena.
They will gather in an area designated for them by the city police—on 3rd Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets—but Chambers said protestors will not be restricted to that area.
Posts on social media since the official announcement of the visit last week have called on Trump supporters to arm themselves against the protesters, with one post saying armed conservatives should “clear them once and for all, by any means necessary.”
Chambers said Huntington Police do not believe anyone will follow through with threats of violence, but officers have been participating in specialized training over the past several days to prepare for the event.
“We feel confident that there will be no incidences, but you always have to be prepared so that is the approach that we have taken,” Chambers said.
Maynard also said she and her fellow protestors aren’t worried about the threats and are focused on promoting their stances that differ from the Trump administration.
The president’s campaign stop comes 10 days after Trump’s last visit to the state.
Trump gave a controversial speech at the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree in Fayette County last week, a speech after which he was criticized for being highly political.
According to a recent Gallup poll, though, Trump’s approval rating is at 60 percent in West Virginia, the highest in the country. Nationally, his approval rating sits at 40 percent.