James Hassinger, 73, got up early Monday and rode his FLS Harley Davidson bike 120 miles from his home in Cambridge, Ohio, to attend his first-ever political rally.
“I’m an anybody-but-what-we-got supporter,” the retired heating and air conditioning contract says, sporting a “Bikers for Trump” T-shirt. The GOP nominee presumptive Donald Trump “probably isn’t the most qualified guy. In fact, I’m sure he’s not the most qualified guy, but I’m sick and tired of career politicians.”
Hassinger was one of a few hundred pro-Trump supporters, some of whom came from as far away as southern California and South Carolina, to gather on the banks of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River to support the billionaire businessman. They came toting Gadsden flags, signs and T-shirts calling for Hillary Clinton to go to prison and calling Bill Clinton a rapist—there was even a “Make America Great Again” horse and buggy.
“We have thousands of bikers in town. We’re not all here because we don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket,” Chris Cox, the head of Bikers for Trump, told the crowd. “We are calling this ‘back the badge.’ … The fact that civilians have to stand up and protect the police officers is really unacceptable.”
Cleveland police took pains to separate out the pro- and anti-Trump crowds to avoid any clashes. Many groups stayed away from the demonstrations for fear that things could, as they have before at Trump rallies, get violent and quickly escalate in this open-carry state where anyone who has legally purchased a weapon can carry it openly.
But the pro-Trump rally, while angry in tone, was a relatively peaceful affair. Candidates running against Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and Arizona Sen. John McCain addressed the crowd, as did Alex Jones and former Trump advisor Roger Stone. Media rivaled the crowd in numbers, snapping pictures of the bikes and signs.
Many of the bikers were also veterans, many of whom condemned Trump’s remarks last year disparaging McCain for getting shot down and captured by the Vietnamese during the war. “I think he could’ve gotten by without saying that,” said Hassinger, who served in the Navy in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Donald Trump is just one of those guys who blurts things out. But like a lot of people who run for office, we overlook some things.”
One speaker talked about her son, Josh, was murdered by an undocumented immigrant. “I’m telling you that was our 9/11 terrorist attack by an illegal alien,” she said, as the crowd shook its head and murmured agreement.
“That’s one thing that drives me nuts is when Mexican people they come over the border,” said Dan Christensen, a former truck driver who is on disability who came from Chicago to support Trump. “We need better immigration laws and Trump can do that. He’ll build a wall.”