Police, Protesters And Supporters Prepare For Trump’s Visit To New London
Protesters and supporters alike plan to greet President Donald Trump when he arrives in Connecticut Wednesday to deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London. Trump will fly into Groton-New London Airport for his first trip to the state since he was elected president. The commencement is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. New London police Capt. Brian M. Wright said city police are working with other local departments, state police and the Secret Service to prepare for the visit.
“At the forefront is everyone’s safety and well-being,” Wright said.
Two groups have received permits for events at McKinley Park near the main gate of the Coast Guard Academy: an anti-Trump demonstration by the Unify and Resist Coalition and a pro-Trump rally by the American Liberty Center organized by Republican Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh. Stonington fisherman Robert Guzzo said he and his colleagues are hoping to catch Trump’s eye by gathering in a flotilla near the Coast Guard Academy with signs welcoming the president and asking him to “Make Commercial Fishing Great Again.” Guzzo is hoping a meeting can be arranged between Trump and fishermen the same way the president has worked with the coal-mining industry.
“The industry is in a mess the way the regulations are set up,” he said. “We’ve been reaching out for years trying to get someone that would listen. … He’s in our backyard and maybe he can help us out.”
Members of the Unify and Resist Coalition will gather at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown New London at 8 a.m. and begin marching to the park 30 minutes later. Marj Adler, a member of Rise Up Mystic, a grass-roots progressive organization that will be protesting on Wednesday, said many different concerns will be represented at the event including women’s rights, voting rights, climate change and access to health care.
“I think there is just such an outcry because unfortunately people just don’t feel like [Trump and the Republican Congress] are looking out for the betterment of the people of the United States,” she said.
Presidential visits to the Coast Guard Academy have been met with crowds of protesters before, including when President George W. Bush spoke to cadets in 2007 and more than 1,000 anti-war demonstrators from across New England came out. Hopkins-Cavanagh said a shuttle will bring supporters to her event from the Chili’s on Frontage Road beginning at 7:30 a.m. Wright, the police captain in New London, said there is no set time for Trump’s departure. A number of roads near the academy will be closed beginning at 5 a.m.
Presidents traditionally rotate between addressing graduates at the four service academies and their speeches generally aren’t partisan in nature. In 2015, President Barack Obama’s address focused on the threat of climate change, calling it a “serious threat to global security” and “an immediate risk to our national security.”
“We usually hear statements of gratitude to those who are defending the country and often presidents use these occasions to talk about their foreign policy or defense concerns,” said Ronald Schurin, a professor of political science at UConn. But Schurin also said Trump has been known to go off script. “It’s possible the president will use this as he often does as a way of venting about his enemies or trying to justify his recent actions,” he said, referencing reports that Trump had shared highly classified information with Russian officials. The graduating class of 196 cadets includes 15 from Connecticut, according to the academy.
Wednesday’s speech will be the second commencement address Trump has given since he was elected. Over the weekend he spoke to graduates of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian university in Virginia, telling them to “relish the opportunity to be an outsider” and ignore the critics.
“Carry yourself with dignity and pride,” Trump said. “Demand the best from yourself and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures. Does that sound familiar by the way? The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong.”