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SLIDESHOW: Dozens Protest Trump’s Norman Fundraiser Before Heavy Rain Sets In

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump spent a little over an hour in Norman Saturday afternoon, courting campaign donors just a few blocks from the campus of the University of Oklahoma.

More than 100 demonstrators gathered near the private residence where the fundraiser was held, protesting Trump’s views on race, immigration, and the economy.

Trump’s motorcade pulled up to the home of Hunter and Kathy Miller less than 15 minutes after his expected arrival – no small feat considering the streets of Norman were clogged with football fans making their way toward the Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium for Saturday evening’s contest between OU and the Ohio State University. Protesters lined Chautauqua Ave. on either side of Timberdell Rd., but Trump and his entourage came in a back route and avoided a close encounter with them.

He emerged from his black SUV shortly before 4:45 p.m. – the fundraiser was slated to start at 4:30 – and briefly waved to the crowd before heading inside the home of the daughter and son-in-law of Barry Switzer. The legendary football coach lives across the street, and had “Trump-Pence” signs on his property as well.

Norman resident Bill Dower speaks to reporters shortly after Donald Trump arrived at his Norman fundraiser.
Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU
Norman resident Bill Dower speaks to reporters shortly after Donald Trump arrived at his Norman fundraiser.

Norman resident Bill Dower carried a megaphone and held a picket sign adorned with “Can’t Comb Over Hatred.” He and his friends received an invitation from friends on Facebook to join the rally, and he came out because he said the city, state, and country don’t support Trump’s values.

“He’s a racist. He’s a bigot. We can’t have that type of person in office,” Dower said. “Anybody in office but Donald Trump is better than Donald Trump.”

Several political candidates also attended the protest. Sean Braddy is running as an independent and hoping to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford this fall.

The Norman resident said he’s always considered himself a Democrat, but first registered to vote as an independent and never changed it. He says that allows him to be a candidate for the people without ties to a party platform or big corporations. His primary concern on Saturday was economic imbalance.

“It’s odd how since Bernie [Sanders] hasn’t been the nominee that we got away from talking about what matters to people – income inequality – and we’re back to talking about emails and silly things,” Braddy said. “People out here are struggling. We’re not represented. Here at this rally we are, but overall, the presidential campaign has gotten back to Hillary’s email and Trump’s lack of paying taxes.”

Braddy said his ideal candidate would be someone living paycheck-to-paycheck who can connect progressive organizations across the state.

“The best case is that the people in Ada start to realize that there are progressive people in Woodward, and you’re not alone,” Braddy said. “And the people in Woodward realize, ‘Hey, there are progressive people over in Pryor, in Tahlequah, across the state, and just haven’t had a voice.’”

Christina Owen, the Democratic nominee for Oklahoma's Fourth Congressional District, waves to passers by along Chautauqua Ave. across the street from a Donald Trump fundraiser Saturday, September 17, 2016.
Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU
Christina Owen, the Democratic nominee for Oklahoma's Fourth Congressional District, waves to passers by along Chautauqua Ave. across the street from a Donald Trump fundraiser Saturday.

Christina Owen lives in Norman and is the Democratic nominee running against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole and Libertarian Sevier White for the Fourth Congressional District seat. She joined Saturday’s demonstration on behalf of Stop the Plains – All American Red River Pipeline and in solidarity with other Native groups protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We wanted to come because [Continental Resources CEO and key Trump energy advisor] Harold Hamm is here representing a lot of big oil,” Owen said. “We wanted to have a strong voice here today for clean oil and Native rights. So it’s not just an anti-Trump rally, but talking about some of these important issues as well.”

Owen said the fact that many energy and business leaders attended the fundraiser shows Trump’s alliance with oil and gas giants. She also said Trump has a long and negative history with Native Americans, including referring to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as “Pocahontas” while disputing her Native American ancestry.

“I would love to have him speak out and say something about these pipelines, to say something about Native rights and their sovereignty, and these land rights,” Owen said. “And that’s just something we’re not hearing.”

There were a handful of Trump supporters in the crowd Saturday, and some undecided voters as well. Shane Hofer is an Ohio State student in town for the football game. He said his priorities are low taxes, and keeping the country safe.

“He hasn’t really outlined his plans for national security, but the people who’ve endorsed him have said that they’ve talked to him in closed doors and it’s better than what he’s said on the outside,” Hofer said. “But education – bringing it back to the states is the main thing I’ve seen from him that’s better than Hillary.”

The swing state resident hasn’t made up his mind about which candidate he’ll vote for this fall, but said he’s leaning toward Trump even though he wasn’t his first choice as the Republican nominee.

“Ohio, we’re not far right. And I think a lot of Trump’s policies aren’t far right,” Hofer said. “Some of the things he says might be a little outlandish, but I don’t think they’re fully conservative. I don’t think they’re one way or the other. I think they’re more moderate.”

A few Trump supporters made their way through the crowd after leaving the fundraiser – including Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (center) leaves Donald Trump's fundraiser in Norman on Saturday, September 17, 2016.
Credit Brian Hardzinski / KGOU
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, center, leaves Donald Trump's fundraiser in Norman on Saturday.

When asked about the Trump fundraiser, the state’s top law enforcement official simply said, “I’m going to the football game.”

Thunderstorms slowly moved south toward Norman after Trump arrived, and the crowd mostly dissipated once the heavy downpour started. The GOP nominee attended a rally in Colorado later that evening, and appeared to have left the Miller residence a little less than 90 minutes after arriving.

KGOU produces journalism in the public interest, essential to an informed electorate. Help support informative, in-depth journalism with a donation online, or contact our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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