President Trump to host rally in Grand Rapids on Thursday

Alexander Sinn • Mar 27, 2019 at 9:00 AM

GRAND RAPIDS — President Donald Trump will make a visit to Grand Rapids on Thursday in an early bid for re-election.

The likely 2020 Republican Party nominee is expected to sound off on a range of issues inside the Van Andel Arena beginning at 7 p.m., while outside protestors have planned resistance.

Trump has recently declared a national emergency to secure federal funding of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. The House and Senate voted this month to block the directive, which Trump vetoed.

Trump has pursued tariffs against China in what some are calling a looming “trade war,” but the president has drawn on the success of a growing economy.

The visit also comes on the heels of the resolution of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russian hackers, which last week found no evidence of collusion. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

The investigation did not make a determination on obstruction of evidence by the president, and some U.S. House Democrats say there is evidence of wrongdoing on both counts.

Diane Schindlbeck, founder of West Michigan Republicans, has helped stoke support for Trump in Michigan since 2016. She called the Russia investigation “fake news,” saying voters are focused on continued growth in the economy.

“The next election is going to break down between capitalism and socialism,” she said. “That’s the way I look at it. We know how radical the liberals are getting now, and it’s doing us a favor.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, echoed similar sentiments at a Chamber of Commerce event in Spring Lake last week, saying Democrats are leaning further into their base. He also said Republican attempts to challenge the president’s candidacy will “fail miserably.”

Schindlbeck said she believes support for Trump has remained strong during his White House tenure. She said his frequent bashing of his opponents and the media on Twitter has won over his “real” supporters.

“I love it. The American people love it. I’m not the only one,” she said. “He’s speaking directly to us and he doesn’t hold back. ... I love the fact that he’s brave enough to say what’s on his mind, and he doesn’t depend on anyone to deliver his message.”

Trump behaves no differently at his rallies. At a visit to Grand Rapids in 2015 prior to becoming president, he mocked protesters as they were tossed from the Deltaplex, and rattled off insults of his Republican primary opponents.

The local branch of a group called the Socialist Alternative is planning to protest the Van Andel Arena event. About 2,500 people are listed as “interested” on the Facebook event page.

A “Baby Trump” balloon is also expected to fly over downtown Grand Rapids, as a separate protest group will gather at Rosa Park Circle.

Schindlbeck said protestors at Trump events are “all talk and no action,” adding that she is grateful for police authorities for keeping events safe.

“It’s really laughable that they think they’re going to stop us,” she said. “You go to one of these rallies and you would never feel safer. I would not ever feel safer than being at a Trump rally.”

Trump has continued to hold political rallies across the country while in office, which Schindlbeck said is a “blessing.”

“Our president knows how important Michigan is,” she said. “I never remember a president that traveled that much and did these rallies. He wants to see us and talk to us and let us know what’s going on.”

Trump visited Michigan frequently during the 2016 presidential campaign, and won the state by nearly 11,000 votes in his defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton. The majority of voters in both Kent and Ottawa counties chose Trump in the election.

What to know if you go 

Free tickets to the event are available online at the Trump campaign website

Some Grand Rapids streets will be closed during Trump’s visit. Streets immediately around the arena at 130 Fulton St. West will close from 2:30 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m. They include:

— Fulton Street West from Ottawa to Ionia

— Weston Street SW, west of Ionia

— Oakes Street SW from Ottawa to Ionia

— Ottawa Avenue SW from Fulton to Oakes

The Area 2 parking lot on Oakes Street and Area 3 lot on Ionia Avenue will be closed Thursday, in addition to metered parking at the following locations:

— Ottawa Avenue NW between Oakes and Fulton

— Oakes Street SW between Grandville and Market

— Weston Street SW between Ottawa and Grandville

— Weston Street SW west of Ionia

— Lot at Fulton Street SW and Ionia

Heavy traffic is expected in downtown Grand Rapids on Thursday, as the event is estimated to draw up to 12,000 people.

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