Story and photo by John Burton
MIDDLETOWN – The passionate supporters of Donald J. Trump were on full display the afternoon of Monday Feb. 27, expressing their backing of the president and his policies and making no apologies for their disdain for the president’s detractors and for those they say would lead the country to ruin.
“We’re here to show what we believe in,” said organizer Frank Cott, co-founder of the Bayshore Tea Party Group, about the rally and demonstration conducted just outside the ShopRite shopping center, Route 35 and Harmony Road in the township. The crowd with Cott appeared to number over at least 200 after its first hour of its planned two-hour span. Many in the crowd wore “Make America Great Again” hats and supportive T-shirts and sweatshirts; many more brandished signs, some proclaiming their endorsements and others offering jeers for a variety of issues, attacking the media, “fake news,” Hillary Clinton (when her name was mentioned it led to chants of “Lock her up!”), opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the political left (“Who are looking to destroy our country,” believes rally participant Darryl Brooks, Trenton), and other hot-button topics among a divided electorate.
But the main topic of the rally, by far and away, in discussions and signs, was immigration, as it had been during much of Trump’s presidential campaign and from the beginning of his still early administration. In fact, the timing of the rally for Monday, Feb. 27 was intentional, hoping to encourage participants to travel from the township to neighboring Red Bank. Cott and others were under the impression the Red Bank Human Relations Committee was going to vote on a resolution designating Red Bank a “sanctuary city” allowing the harboring of undocumented immigrants. The resolution that was eventually approved later that evening – after much debate – was a non-binding, largely symbolic resolution that named Red Bank as a “Welcoming and Inclusive Community” that celebrates diversity and reaffirmed it was not the responsibility of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration policy, given the limitations of existing resources – actually a longstanding policy for Red Bank.
“We’re going to Red Bank tonight and show them what this country is about,” Brooks shouted with the use of a bullhorn to the receptive crowd.
Cott said he opposed designating Red Bank as a sanctuary city as it would become a magnet for the undocumented and that would cause higher county and state taxes. “Because of the mandated ESL (English as Second Language) classes,” said Cott, a Middletown resident, believing the classes and the needed teachers and social services would drive up taxes.
As undocumented, the immigrants are in violation of the law and if Red Bank offers them safe haven, “That’s aiding and abetting,” Cott charged. “We’re going to have the attorney general look into this.”
“We’re out here for our country and our president,” contributed Gary, a Hazlet resident who declined to give his last name.
“I feel the media has been unfair to President Trump,” Gary explained, believing the media have taken comments out of context to portray Trump in the worst possible light.
Some others wouldn’t submit to an interview saying they didn’t trust the media.
Like Cott, Gary said, “It’s really something that we’re worried about,” referring to Red Bank. “Red Bank’s not far from me. You’d be allowing convicted felons in our neighborhoods. We’re not going to allow that.”
Mirea Balteau is a native of Ukraine, an Eastern European republic, who now lives in Plainsboro. And as an immigrant, “I support legal immigration,” she said, stressing legal immigration.
“I believe America is the best country and I want my children to grow up in this wonderful country,” she said. To ensure that, she continued, “I fully stand behind Donald Trump’s policies.”
“I don’t know why there’s so much controversy over what this guy is saying,” wondered Richard Yarczower, Middletown, referring to Trump. “I’ve heard Presidents Obama and Clinton say the same things,” on immigration and other topics. “The difference is this guy is doing it.”
There was even a little politicking, too. Republican gubernatorial candidate Joseph Rudy Rullo worked the crowd. “It’s a great show here, isn’t it,” Rullo said about the attendance.
Rullo told the crowd he was an early Trump supporter and takes inspiration from Trump’s longshot victory. “You know how Trump wants to drain the swamp in Washington,” offered Rullo, Little Egg Harbor. “I want to drain the swamp in Trenton.”
This is one of two rallies planned this week for the grassroots conservative activist Bayshore Tea Party Group. The next rally will be Saturday, March 4, at noon at the same location, where, “We’re going to stand tall. We’ll stand for freedom and liberty,” Brooks announced.
Barbara Gonzalez, co-founder of the group, told The Two River Times two weeks ago her group was working with Breitbart News, the far-right conservative website, which is coordinating similar rallies nationally to continue to voice support for Trump.
The Bayshore group, like other similar organizations, grew out of a conservative backlash early in the Obama administration, especially in response to Obama’s plans for federal bailouts following the 2008 financial crash. What really galvanized the groups was opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” – which they saw as an expansive overreach on the part of the federal government and contrary to the dictates of a capitalist market system.
This article was first published in the March 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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