Dean Kahn

Trump rally a Saturday to remember in Lynden

Donald Trump rallies the crowd in Lynden

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to an overflow crowd at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Wash., on Saturday, May 7, 2016.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to an overflow crowd at the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden, Wash., on Saturday, May 7, 2016.

Donald Trump’s rally in Lynden on Saturday, May 7, posed challenges for the small city and for the many law enforcement agencies that cooperated to keep protests safe and sane.

The fact that only a handful of arrests were made — and those were distant from the rally site at the Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center — was likely the result of several factors, including a well-organized police presence, and most protestors’ and Trump supporters’ inclination to not let matters escalate beyond waving signs, chanting slogans, and yelling an occasional expletive.

Quiet town, busy town

Saturday was warm, with blue skies and a clear view of Mount Baker, fitting weather for garage and plant sales, biking and jogging, and taking a vintage car out for a cruise.

American flags rustled in the breeze on Front Street downtown, put there by Lynden Lions Club. Children played in the shade of the towering pin oaks on Front between downtown and the fairgrounds.

One Seattle police officer mentioned to a fellow officer that he had never heard so many people say “please” and “thank you” at such an event.

Shortly after 11 a.m. — while hundreds stood patiently in line along Kok Road for entry to hear Trump — Keri Tenkley was mowing her well-groomed lawn a few blocks from the rally site. Tenkley said she leans Republican but hadn’t decided whether to vote for Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president.

She didn’t expect major problems with protests — “I think they’re prepared for the crowds and the nonsense people will bring” — but nonetheless was glad she had plans to be out of town that afternoon.

“I’ll be glad when it’s tomorrow,” she said.

By late morning, likely several thousand people lined the north side of Kok waiting to enter the fairgrounds for the rally, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. The line started at the main fair gate on Kok and extended west to 19th Street, then north, along the back side of Lynden Food Pavilion.

Janell Lavelle of Ferndale was near the front, having arrived at 6:15 a.m. Saturday. Lavelle said she’s more conservative than Trump, but supports him because he doesn’t worry about being politically correct and he wants to make America better. She described Trump’s appearance as “a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Near the end of the line, Casey Peacock hoped to be one of the more than 5,000 let in for the rally. He lives in Lynnwood and left there at 6 a.m. to hear his favorite candidate.

“I want to see his whole speech,” Peacock said. “And I want him to build that wall.”

At that point, there were perhaps a dozen protestors on the south side of Kok. Five young anti-Trump woman walked with signs and yelled slogans on the opposite side of 19th.

One woman yelled “support diversity.” A Trump supporter yelled back, “I see you’re all white. We have more diversity on this side.”

Four Seattle police officers on bikes paced themselves between the women and the Trump supporters to keep matters under control.

One Seattle police officer mentioned to a fellow officer that he had never heard so many people say “please” and “thank you” at such an event.

Meanwhile, three protestors with a Seattle group chained themselves together on Guide Meridian south of Lynden to block Trump’s motorcade from Bellingham International Airport. But he took a different route and the protestors were cited for disorderly conduct.

More protesters mid-afternoon

In the hour before the rally was to begin, about 100 protestors lined Front Street in front of the fairgrounds. Supporters in cars honked their horn and gave a thumbs up. Opponents shouted Trump slogans, revved their engines, and flipped the bird.

More protestors gathered on Kok as Trump’s arrival drew near. Police erected crowd-control barriers along the south side of Kok, and lined the middle of the road with armed officers and parked police cars.

Kok was cleared of traffic to the east, but an elderly man appeared, pedaling a bicycle toward the fairgrounds. Police yelled at him to turn back. He did so just before Trump’s motorcade turned east onto Kok from South 17th Street and sped to the fair gate at 3:52 p.m. Trump’s speech lasted about 45 minutes, marked with loud cheers and chants audible outside the fairgrounds.

Tense moments afterward

After Trump’s motorcade left the fair at 5 p.m., many supporters and protesters began walking home or to their cars, sharing the sidewalk peaceably and stepping aside for people in wheelchairs.

Dozens, perhaps several hundred, protestors clustered on the south side of Kok opposite the gate where Trump supporters were leaving the fairgrounds. A cluster of mostly Trump supporters traded chants and shouts with the protesters. Police stood nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of the road, with a phalanx of officers on bikes nearby ready to respond.

At one point, three protestors, two wearing bandanas below their eyes, pointed threateningly at two Trump supporters crossing Kok. The young men came face-to-face, and one Trump supporter bumped a protester with his shoulder, but the men separated when police intervened.

Trump’s plane departed the Bellingham airport just before 6 p.m., according to police.

As one parking lot attendant remarked, “It’s an event.”

Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291

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