Thousands of Mississippians gathered at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo this past Friday for a political rally held by President Donald Trump. Although the arena itself reached max capacity, many of Trump’s supporters stood outside of the arena, clad with MAGA attire underneath the glow of a screen that live-streamed the events inside.
Those in search of Trump memorabilia needed only to scan the area within a six-foot radius, as many vendors gathered outside the arena to sell Trump-themed items from cowboy hats to flags depicting Trump raising a beer to his constituents.
David Perez, a flag vendor from Albuquerque, New Mexico, travels around the country with his family following the president and said Trump is the No. 1 selling flag. It was Perez’s first time in Tupelo, and he said it was one of the smaller rallies he had experienced on the road.
Waving a flag portraying Trump offering a thumbs-up with the words, “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”, Perez circled the crowd looking for last-minute customers and waited for the president to begin his speech. Perez praised Trump’s current handling of the United States' affairs and anticipates reelection.
“Well, the reason I like him a lot is because everybody is working," Perez said. "It doesn’t matter who you are. If you want to be a business owner, if you want to be an employee, everybody has room to work with. Everybody is getting a piece of the pie, and that’s just pretty cool. That’s the beauty of this country is that if you want to be a business owner, then you have to work hard for it and if you want to be an employee, then you still have to work hard for it. Our rights come from God, so he’s about that and that’s the beauty of it. That’s what I like about him. I don’t like politicians a lot, but our rights come from God and he appreciates that.”
Also in support of Trump’s current actions and reelection were Starkville residents Chris and Natalia Sears. Chris Sears expressed his gratitude at Trump’s decision to visit Tupelo and believes Trump is doing everything that a president should do.
“I think he’s doing a great job. All he is doing is what he is supposed to do and that is apply the constitution and limit the federal government,” Chris Sears said. “I think our founding fathers would be proud of Donald Trump. He’s reducing regulations, he’s limiting the federal government and he’s trying to give power back to the people.”
While many stood in support of Trump, many also came out to show their disapproval of the president’s handling of both foreign and domestic affairs.
Carlton Wall, a member of the Tupelo chapter of the activist group Indivisible, expressed surprise at Trump’s decision to visit Tupelo and called for increased action and support of the Kurds.
“I am stunned that he is coming for the second time in less than a year to such a small place. I recognize it's his base of support, and I hope we can impress on him that the people he wants to come see and the people who like him support the Kurds,” Wall said.
Wall said Trump’s refusal to support the Kurds is a betrayal of American values and will have a disastrous effect on his supporters and chance of reelection.
“The Kurds have supported us since the time of H.W. Bush. They’ve answered every call we have ever given. We told them about four to five months ago that they need to disarm—to placate Turkey. They did, because they always answer our call and then in one phone call that was so fast we had to bomb ourselves when we pulled out of the Syrian border, we abandoned our allies,” Wall said. “He’s not going to get, I don’t believe, any North Mississippian that served in the National Guard, any North Mississippians that served in the army with the Kurds. I don’t believe he is going to compare to any of the other candidates with his unique betrayal of American allies. He needs to reconnect.”
Another protester, Liz Hicks of Tupelo, stood with her son among Trump supporters, carrying a sign that questioned the president’s ability to lead.
“I don’t feel like Trump could ever make America great again. Have you seen him actually get out there with some of these people who are actually struggling and actually ask personal questions about their life or what would really make our community better as a whole?” Hicks said. “We have real, true problems here that involve racism, segregation—that stuff still exists here in Mississippi. It’s everywhere, and Trump is doing nothing. It’s like he is giving people the ammunition to be ugly and to be more vocal about not liking someone based on the color of their skin or their sexuality or their choice of preference of anything in life. So, I just don’t see how one person who doesn’t know anything about being on the bottom can actually be for the ones on the bottom already.”
Hicks also expressed her fear towards the openness for hate and racism that she said became heightened when Trump took office in 2017.
“I have four biracial children and that’s one thing that terrifies me is to know that someone might see them one day and be like ‘Oh, he fits the description of some kid that just robbed a store,’ and in all actuality, he was coming home from football practice and gets killed," Hicks said. "Now, I have to spend the rest of my life missing my child because of your insecurities. Too many people have lost their lives because of the way that they look and something’s got to change. I may not be able to change the world, but I can change this day and stand out here for what I believe in.”
This rally marked Trump’s second visit to Tupelo within a year. On this particular occasion, Trump came to both garner support for himself and for Tate Reeves, the Republican candidate for governor, prior to the Mississippi general election held today. While this may be the last rally held in Mississippi for the foreseeable future, Trump’s next rally is set to take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6 in Monroe, Louisiana.