Protesters, Trump supporters, and Dallas police are set to converge together around Trump’s rally Thursday afternoon.
Six hundred Dallas police officers drilled in full riot gear Wednesday in preparation for potential clashes with protesters at the rally. Off-duty officers acted out the parts of unruly protesters, and police used smoke bombs to simulate tear gas. Dallas police also wanted to practice during the middle of the day to ensure that the officers were adequately prepared to stand in the hot weather Thursday.
“In our country, everyone has a privilege to assemble and share their voices, and the Dallas police department’s role in that is to protect everyone,” Dallas Deputy Chief Jeff Cotner said. “There have been incidents across the country in which these situations have turned violent, so the department is taking steps to prepare our officers.”
Organizers said they expect 2,000 or more protesters at the rally, but they have explicitly emphasized the need to stay peaceful. In fact, protesters have been asked to wear white t-shirts in order to “promote peace.” Domingo Garcia, the main protest organizer, stated Wednesday, “we will give Trump a warm, hot Texas welcome.” In addition to the large police force, the protesters have hired 50 private security staff to keep them safe in the event of Trump supporters becoming too violent.
In addition to the white shirts, organizers asked participants to bring American flags, not the Mexican flags that appeared at Trump rallies in the past. Garcia said it is important to remember the rally is an “American movement.”
One Trump supporter, Barbara Tomasinos stated, “I’m very concerned about (the protesters), but I still want to go to the rally.” Tomasinos attended multiple rallies for Trump in the past few months.
Texas is not anticipated to be a battleground state in the general election, but holding a massive rally in Dallas is part of an ongoing effort to unite the voting base of the Republican Party, while holding party leadership at arm’s length.