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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

About 100 people gathered at Town Park in downtown Madison Monday afternoon for a rally in support of President Donald Trump. The crowd was donned in red hats waiving American Flags and holding pro-Trump signs as citizens took the stage to celebrate President Trump.  A small group of anti-Trump protesters silently circled Town Park during the rally, holding signs criticizing the new president.

Tim and Penny Saye opened the rally by singing the national anthem. Attendees took turns sharing why they support Trump.

“I have so much hope now after eight miserable years under Obama,” said Kim Acres, the organizer of the rally. Thing are already getting better and we have hope again. I am pro-Trump. I love our president and I support him 100 percent.”

“I am just happy to see that Trump is going to all that he is going to do,” said Scott Sellers, a local veteran

Harry, a local veteran, stressed the people needed to reclaim pride and the true spirit of America. “We voted, we stood up for Trump. He is our president and this is where you need to support him.”

David Rourke, a supporter who spoke at the rally, rejoiced over Trump’s victory. 

“All the real Americans are here today,” said Rourke. “We are not the silent majority anymore.”

Supporters expressed their excitement over Trump’s promise to bring good-paying jobs back to America, to lower taxes, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, to increase care for veterans, to increase military spending, and rollback regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But it was the issue of illegal immigration that dominated Monday’s rally.

“All of these people are pouring into our county illegally and they shouldn’t be getting free education, free housing and food stamps,” said Carol Simpson at the rally. “Look at what’s happening in Sweden…Rape is up 500 percent in the last 10 years or something…And here, 80 percent of the people coming in are young men…they aren’t coming here for a better life. They are infiltrating our country. ISIS says that’s what they’re doing,” claimed Simpson. 

James Hunt, who works in construction, lamented over taxpayer money being spent on jailing and deporting illegal immigrants only to have them return a few months later.

“I love my Mexicans, but they have to be legal,” he said from the stage, believing Trump will fix the country’s immigration problems. “He is taking a lot of heat from the Democrats and the liberal media for this.”

“There are wonderful people who want to be here…whose opportunities to do so have been limited and the wrong people have been getting in and we have no idea who they are,” said Ginger McFaddin of Madison. “Donald Trump has gone back to the original principles of this country and he is going to get it done. I’m thrilled with what he is accomplishing and I hope we get eight, long wonderful years of restoring this country to greatness.”

Protesters of Monday’s rally held signs that read “Why Does He Lie?,” “Love Thy Neighbor,” and “Immigrants Built this Economy.” Patsy Harris,  who sits on the Morgan County Democratic Executive Committee, organized the protest of the rally. “Each of us was there to protest the clueless train wreck that is Donald Trump and the mockery he has made of our Presidency and country,” said Harris. “We, 35 of us, came as individuals and as members of established groups right here in Morgan County. We were eager for this opportunity and are ready for the next.”

“We are a diverse community here. I think it’s important to have good rhetoric, and that’s what’s missing here today,” said Heidi Behrendsen, who said she wanted hear more acceptance for differences in politics, gender, sexuality, religion and race. “I am not really anti-Trump as much as I am pro-acceptance and peace and he does not represent that.”

“We are here protesting today because it’s a small town and we want our Mexican friends and African-American friends to know that they have friends here, that we aren’t against them,” said Hannah Tindol, one of the protesters who stood outside of Town Park painting a bridge on a canvas next to a sign that read, “Build Bridges, Not Walls.”

“I’m here today to show that not everybody here thinks like them. We are here, too, and we are not for this,” said Natalie Youngblood, another protester.

But rally supporters dismissed protesters’ concerns, with one supporter even carrying a counter sign that read, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

“If you are not with us, get out of our way and let us do our job. The Trump-Train is pulling out of the station and we are going full speed ahead,” said Sellers from the stage to the marching protesters outside Town Park.

Other speakers also admonished for more respect to be shown to President Trump, chastising protesters, along with liberals, Democrats, and the mainstream media in general, for being unfairly critical and “mean” to the new president.

“They are out there marching and saying all these things against him,” said Kathy Jones Whiteside. “My parents taught me that you respect your president, you don’t have to like everything they do but you do respect them. I am very greatly concerned of for the parents and the grandparents today whose children are out there acting like a bunch of nincompoops. And our colleges are brainwashing our young people. We learned to be a good citizen when I was in college,” she said.

The event closed with Tim Saye singing “American Christian,” by Michael Combs. “We all need to pray for our president” urged Saye, after finishing the song.

Acres closed the event. “Thank you so much for coming and supporting America. We are going to make it great again.”

deCouncilwoman Carrie Peters Reid stressed that this decision should take the entire city into account, not just the residents of the Historic District.

“We have to make this decision based on what is best for the whole city. We have to look at how this affects the entire City of Madison,” said Reid.

The council also discussed how to enhance economic development, finding ways to attract more businesses and industries to the city. One of the obstacles for the council has been securing broadband Internet service, one of the features companies and private citizens consider when relocating.

Hodges has been meeting with state legislatures about it, but even they cannot secure broadband Internet.

“This is a statewide problem,” said Hodges. “But it is beyond anything that the state can even do at this point. All we can do is hope that this new incoming administration will add it to the infrastructure spending.”

The council noted that more locally available jobs are already here, but Morgan County’s workforce is ill-equipped for them.

“We are having to import people from other areas to fill these jobs. Thankfully, the school system is addressing the problems with our workforce through the coming College and Career Academy,” said Hodges.

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