By TAYLOR HARTZ
Presidential Republican hopeful Donald Trump spoke to his throngs of local supporters on Friday, filling the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
Posters filled the air with the phrase “The Silent Majority Stands with Trump” as the leading Republican candidate took the stage. Trump said his following has turned from a silent majority to “a big loud majority.”
“We’re going bring our jobs back. They’re being sent to Mexico,” said Trump. “We’re going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it.”
Trump spoke about a loss of manufacturing jobs in the state, citing a 30 percent decrease since 2000. He criticized the recent announcement by General Electric that their headquarters will relocate from Fairfield to Boston.
“If I were governor, we wouldn’t be losing General Electric,” said Trump of the move that will cost the state hundreds of jobs. “If I’m elected President, we’re bringing our companies back and bringing our jobs back.”
Southington native and Plainville resident Marie LeBrun said she attended Friday’s rally “to hear what Mr. Trump had to say for himself,” and liked what she heard.
“I thought it was great,” said Lebrun.
A Southington resident for more than 20-years, Lebrun said that although she is registered as neither a Republican nor Democrat, she plans to vote for Trump if he is the GOP candidate.
“I got to hear him talk about bringing jobs and companies back to Connecticut,” she said, and “about handling the illegal immigration problem we have.”
While thousands cheered for Trump, a select few spoke up in opposition during his speech, with security removing nearly 20 protesters from the rally.
Lebrun said she was “a little apprehensive about going at first” due to violent protests at other rallies, but said she did not witness any violence.
Outside the convention center, scores gathered to speak out against the GOP candidate. Protesters converged on the streets and sidewalks to show support for other candidates, or to criticize Trump’s platform.
Bristol resident and registered Democrat Brandon Hazleton said he stood outside with protesters on Friday night. Rather than holding a sign or chanting, Hazleton said he was “observing and engaging in conversation,” in hopes of understanding how Trump supporters planned to “make America great again.”
“Unfortunately the attempt to have a civil conversation led to a few threats,” said Hazleton.
Hazleton, who changed his voter registration from Independent to Democrat to support Vermont’s U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D), in the primaries this year, said he saw a few Trump supporters “lose their cool.”
There were also those in attendance who waved signs of support for Sanders or Hillary Clinton.
With the state primaries approaching on April 26, Trump urged supporters to show their support for him at the ballot.
Trump said to his supporters that if he wins the Republican nomination, “You will look back in a few years and say that was the best vote you ever cast,” said Trump, “Because that’s when America became great again.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Hartz, email her at THartz@SouthingtonObserver.com.