About 30 black students who were standing silently at the top of the bleachers at Donald Trump’s rally in Valdosta, Georgia on Monday night were kicked out of the rally. The students got escorted out by Secret Service agents who said the presidential candidate had requested their removal before he began speaking.
The sight of the students, who were visibly upset, being led outside by law enforcement officials created a stir at a university that was a whites-only campus until 1963.
“We didn’t plan to do anything,” said a tearful Tahjila Davis, a 19-year-old mass media major, who was among the Valdosta State University students who was removed. “They said, ‘This is Trump’s property; it’s a private event.’ But I paid my tuition to be here.”
Trump has been regularly heckled by protesters at his campaign rallies, but tensions have increased after he came under fire on Sunday for not immediately condemning support from a prominent white supremacist.
Earlier Monday, some black students at another Trump campaign rally, on the campus of Radford University in Virginia, were led out by Secret Service after they began chanting: “No more hate! No more hate! Let’s be equal, let’s be great!”
The two campus rallies took place just one day before high-stakes Super Tuesday, when 11 states hold GOP contests, including a collection of southern states. Trump is poised to lock down enough delegates to give him a sizable – and possibly insurmountable – lead over his GOP rivals.
During his remarks in Valdosta, Trump said he’s leading a movement. “I’m just a messenger,” he said.
Later, Trump said his whole life has been about making money, but “now I’m going to be greedy for the United States,” as the audience roared. “I’m going to take, take, take and we’re going to become rich again.”
Karen Clendenin, 58, a victims advocate in the local district attorney’s office, said she was very impressed and that she’ll vote for Trump on Tuesday in Georgia’s primary. Clendenin said she wore her “Trump” T-shirt Monday even though she was “a little embarrassed.”
“So many people at work say, ‘Oh, no, we can’t have him. He’s not sensitive enough,’” she said. “But with the condition our country is in today, we’ve got to have somebody who’s not afraid.”
The students who were asked to leave quietly followed Secret Service agents outside, but then argued with Valdosta police officers who politely, but firmly, told them they needed to leave the grounds of the Trump event, held at the school’s PE complex.
Davis rested her forehead on the shoulder of her friend Leah Sheppard, a 20-year-old criminal justice major, and cried.
“I don’t understand why they would do something like that,” Davis said. “I have not experienced any racism on this campus until now.”
After a barrage of criticism for failing to denounce support from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a CNN interview broadcast Sunday, Trump Monday morning said the problem was that he had difficulty hearing Tapper’s question because of the “very bad earpiece” CNN had given him.