Going to see President Donald Trump’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial was kind of a last-minute idea. The thunderstorms came in around 2 p.m. and weather alerts indicated they would not let up. But this is Virginia, where the weather can turn in an instant.
By 4:30 p.m., the thunderstorms had subsided. It was still raining, but not enough to skip an event like this. We had to do something for Independence Day, after all.
Umbrellas in hand, we took an Uber as close to the Lincoln Memorial as one could get with all the road closures. We walked a couple blocks, around the State Department, to Constitution Ave, where a police officer told us the massive line pointing west was for ticket holders. The massive line pointing east was for general admission. We stood in line for general admission for about a block until the chain-link fence opened up. Security personnel checked my purse, and we were into the grassy area surrounding the Reflection Pool. Most people who entered with us headed east toward the Washington Monument. We headed west for the Lincoln Memorial.
The closest we could get was about halfway between Lincoln and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, just to the east of Henry Bacon Dr.
It should be noted that throughout our walk from the State Department to Lincoln, we saw numerous people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats or carrying “Trump 2020” flags. No one was hassling them. Several people were selling the hats or visors, and one entrepreneur was selling T-shirts that said “Donald F***** Trump 2020” on the front and “Don’t F*** With The U.S.” on the back.
As with any political event, the doomsday preachers were out. At least three men with large signs about repentance strapped to their back and reaching high above their head screeched their message through megaphones just inches from those of us waiting in line.
From our vantage point behind a barrier, unfortunately situated trees, a chain-link fence and another chain-link fence, we could see part of one of the large screens and half the stage (I should have brought my binoculars).
In our area, there were maybe a couple hundred people (I am bad at estimating crowds, however). These people cheered during the president’s speech, which we could kind of hear from where we were. It was at this point I decided I would write this article. Chants of “USA USA!” broke out at inopportune moments during the speech.
The source of chants came from a few people near a protester who had a baby secured to his back and a large cardboard sign about climate change. He was yelling over the crowd, which drowned him out with their chants. Eventually police came to escort the man away as the crowd cheered.
I was surprised to see so much open support for Trump in Washington, D.C., a city that voted 90.9% for Hillary Clinton in 2016. People traveled into the district just for the event, like one man who said he made the decision to drive down around 2 a.m. that morning.
I spoke to Jude Campbell, who travelled with her husband from Ohio to visit their daughter who lives in Northern Virginia. Campbell and her husband are both Trump supporters. Asked why they supported Trump, she said: “I believe that America is great and we should be reinforcing that.”
Their daughter said she didn’t support many of Trump’s policies or the “attitudes he’s displayed toward women in the past.” Still, she went with her parents to get as close as they could to the president’s speech.
We didn’t see the massive crowd around the Reflecting Pool stretching to the Washington Monument until we were leaving (we stayed to take videos of Air Force One, a B-2 Bomber, the Blue Angels, and multiple military helicopters fly overhead). We saw the Baby Trump balloon and the Dump Trump protest art, but mostly we just saw Americans celebrating America regardless of political party.