A tale of two Americas on a small Portsmouth street

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Debbie Andersen (left) and Lonn Sattler. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

PORTSMOUTH, NH – As Eric Trump visited New Hampshire to christen a new Republican Party field office on Friday afternoon, two small groups of people with diametrically opposed views over Trump’s father gathered outside, finding themselves face-to-face in a scene being re-enacted throughout America.

Due to the intimate size of the office, an overflow crowd quickly spilled onto the lawn of the office, separated by a street that was about 10 to 15 feet wide in distance – but far wider in terms of the ideological gap between the people on either side of the street.

For those on the “other” side of the street, a sense of duty permeated their presence. They were looking to do something – anything– in opposition to a campaign they see as an existential threat to all.

Ronnie Werner of Rye said she hadn’t been to a protest since the 1960s, but felt she had no choice but to make her voice heard along this little street after the deadly events in Charlottesville in 2017, a place she lived for many years

“I am so disturbed by the lies (Donald Trump’s) told and the lives he’s cost,” said Werner. “I felt like I owed it to my grandchildren to come here today.”

For Kathleen Hodgson, also of Rye, the main reason for her protest was the president’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“How badly were you affected by Ebola? Can you even remember what year it was? Of course you can’t. Because it was handled properly by the government,” said Hodgson. “Money, equipment and personnel were sent to handle the outbreak and we were never affected by Ebola. (Trump) decided to put his head in the sand. I can’t take it,” Hodgson said. “It’s important to defeat him.”

Lonn Sattler of Barrington, a 22-year Navy veteran, said he felt it was his responsibility to educate Trump supporters on a wide array of things their candidate’s done over the past few years as president, believing that most Trump supporters would not support him if they were fully informed.

“Just got to keep pushing, got to keep educating. That’s all we can do,” he said.

Sattler shared signs with fellow Navy veteran Debbie Andersen, who traveled to New Hampshire from just outside of Boston to protest the event.

While other protesters had cautious optimism that former Vice President Joe Biden would be able to beat Donald Trump in November’s election, Andersen was more skeptical.

She said she would be “holding her nose” to vote for Biden, adding that she thought Biden was a poor candidate.

“I am so frightened, and unlike my friend Lonn, I think (Trump) is going to get in for another four years. (Trump) is so dangerous. I am freaked out and horrified,” she said. “(Trump) brings out this angry, hostile energy in people everywhere I go. I carry these signs everywhere I go and everywhere they’re screaming and swearing at me, there’s so much fury.”

She feels Trump is just the symptom of a larger problem.

“We have 63 million idiot Americans in this country and Trump just brought it out with all the rage and anger, it’s very frightening,” she said. “But even if Trump goes, god willing, the 63 million idiot Americans are still there. I could foresee a civil war.”

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Jeremy Gayford (holding flag) discusses issues with a fellow Trump supporter. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

From across the street the sentiment among Trump supporters toward the presidential protesters was similar.

Jeremy Gayford traveled from Manchester for the latest in many Trump events he’s attended so far, including Trump’s recent visit to Londonderry.

“I think all of those people over there are low IQ individuals,” he said. “They want to elevate a single race, it should be all lives matter, not just one race. After eight years of the poor policies of Obama, I feel that that President Trump is doing a far better job.”

Although a mask ordinance was passed by the Portsmouth City Council earlier in the week, Gayford refused to wear a mask even standing within six feet of several other people, claiming that COVID-19 was little more than a “hit job” on the president.

He did, however, mask up when asked by a campaign staff member to do so, joining the majority of the assembled crowd outside that were already wearing them.

One of those wearing a mask was Malcolm Bryant of Warner.

Warner said he was tired of being called a racist and appreciated Trump’s efforts on border security, believing that Trump would likely win in a landslide.

“He’s doing the things we want done, he’s listening to us when we say things,” he said. “If Biden wins and it’s within the margin of error on mail-in votes, then I will protest because it will be fraud.”

Inside the campaign event Eric Trump stressed the importance of New Hampshire for his dad’s reelection and reminded the crowd how his father won in spite of his lack of political inexperience.

“We are going to beat these guys, we have to do it and we have to win this state,” he said. “In 2016 we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. (Hillary Clinton) raised $1.2 billion dollars, we raised $300 million, and that wasn’t just for the general election; most of that came in the primary. And now you look at what this man has accomplished, he’s accomplished more than any president in history.”

The stop was one of three in the area made by Eric Trump, with the tour not escaping the notice of New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley.

“The only valuable contribution Eric Trump could make to Granite Staters today is to give us an explanation of why President Trump has broken promise after promise to New Hampshire veterans,” said Buckley. “They want to know why Trump has farmed out oversight of the VA to his donors at Mar-a-lago, why he used veterans as guinea pigs to test supposed ‘miracle cures’ like hydroxychloroquine at the height of the pandemic, and why he calls them ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’ behind their back,” Buckley said. “Unless Eric Trump can tell voters why his father continues to show the men and women who have served our country in the military such disrespect through his words and his actions, he should just go home.”

About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.