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A heartening rally, in the time of Trump

I know that if the numbers were reversed, if Trump supporters had outnumbered Trump protesters, at least five to one, outside the Coast Guard Academy graduation Wednesday, I would have chosen to believe it wasn't really a reflection of support around here for the failing president.

But they weren't. No need to delude myself.

Trump protesters far outnumbered supporters, using just their raised voices — chants like "This is what democracy looks like!" — to drown out pro-Trumpers who were using an amplified microphone.

The big gaggle of protesters was almost even able to drown out the very loud engine revving by a pack of Bikers for Trump.

Since the numbers went well my way Wednesday, I am going to choose to believe it is a gauge of strong and growing upset with the scandal-ridden White House.

Take note, you Republican office holders in Connecticut who have not yet renounced your crooked president. I believe a reckoning at the polls here is coming.

If the investigations and scandals don't engulf him, then the reality of initiatives like eliminating health care for millions of Americans will.

It put a bit of a song in my heart Wednesday morning to see the line of Trump protesters, two and three abreast, stretching all the way from the downtown Soldiers and Sailors Monument up State Street past City Hall, as they made their march up to the academy.

It's been a long time since New London has hosted a protest of that size. I had the sense, judging by the worn tie-dyed accessories, that some of the protesters cut their chanting teeth on Vietnam demonstrations.

Certainly no presidential visit to New London in recent decades has elicited such a strong negative public response.

Even Trump in his speech — surprise, surprise, it was a lot about himself — admitted no president has been treated as badly as he has. I wonder why.

I met Michelle Allen of New London curbside outside the academy Wednesday, and she recalled the small handful of people who turned out to welcome President Barack Obama when he spoke at graduation. There were no protesters that day, she said, just supporters.

"I was just so happy then," she told me.

Allen even offered to let me ruffle the tuft of fake orange hair above the Trump caricature on her sign, which declared: "Not my President."

I will leave it to the Trump camp to explain the low turnout on their side, maybe suggesting again that the bikers and gun packers were scared off by the threat of violence that might have been stirred by the peace-flag wavers.

The Trump supporters who Wednesday stood alongside a guy in a white robe should be ashamed of themselves. No one believed the addition of a red cross on the robe disguised the horrible racist statement, that it was meant to invoke anything but the Ku Klux Klan.

A sign I saw earlier seemed a perfect retort: "Don't hide your racism with patriotism."

For the most part, everyone, from those with "Resign" signs to the "Drain the Swamp" folks, was generally polite and respectful as they co-mingled along the sidewalks.

My most heartening chat of the morning was with Andrew Harvey of Norwich, an employee of a community bank, who said that, beyond voting, he has been generally politically inactive most of his adult life.

That has changed with the Trump presidency and Harvey said he has become involved with some activist groups as they have evolved in the wake of the election.

On Wednesday, holding his "Make Russia Great Again" sign, with Trump depicted as a Putin puppet, Harvey noticed a "Drain the Swamp" sign nearby and noted they're just "replacing alligators with crocodiles."

My visit with Harvey was encouraging because he seems to represent a new wave of political involvement that may be needed to unshackle Congress and the White House from Trump influence.

I met and chatted a bit with photographer Mattias Lundblad of Stockholm, who is in the country on a journalism visa, living right now in New London.

Lundblad said he has photographed protests around the world. He likes it, he said, because the subjects are there to be heard, to deliver a message.

"There is a reason people are out," he said. "I want to capture their relationships and that atmosphere."

Lundblad seemed busy Wednesday. There was a lot to capture during New London's first big protest rally, in the time of Trump.

I expect we will see more.

As Trump told graduates Wednesday: "Never, never, never give up."

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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