As President Trump visited Dayton Wednesday, supporters and protesters alike congregated near Miami Valley Hospital and in the Oregon District.
People voicing their opinions for and against the president’s visit concentrated on East Fifth Street — the scene of Sunday’s mass shooting, the tragedy that brought the president to the Miami Valley.
Nearly 200 protesters massed across Main Street from Miami Valley, where Trump met with survivors and first responders.
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Natalie Green cheered when the presidential motorcade first passed. “It’s important for him to be here. He’s showing he loves his country,” Green said.
Green said she and two friends had just come from the Oregon District. Wednesday was the first day they had been to the scene of the shooting since it happened.
“You never think it’s going to happen to you, or your town. The feeling is heavy down there,” Green said. “We need to come together at a time like this.”
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Jennifer Olt, who had come to protest the president’s visit, gave Trump supporters James Wilcox, 14, and his mother a hug.
“We all want to be able to say how we’re hurting. We’re all experiencing pain right now,” Olt said.
Lindsey Banning and her daughters, Charlie, 10, and Ezzy, 7, came to protest the president’s visit.
“His rhetoric is increasing this kind of thing,” Banning said. “It is critically important for me to bring my girls out and show them this kind of thing. I want them to understand their ability to effect change.”
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About a mile-and-a-half to the north, Dayton resident Jim Stevens appeared on Fifth Street in the Oregon District with a large blue-and-white “Trump 2020” flag. He quickly became a magnet for both sides, with supporters of the president shouting “Trump” and opponents chanting in return, “Do something,” which has become a rallying cry for citizens who desire greater control of firearms.
Sidewalks on both sides of Fifth were packed with protesters, media members and the merely curious.
“I’m just here to support my president,” Stevens said at one point. “That’s all.”
Police presence was minimal in the Oregon District for most of the morning, and there were no scenes of physical violence. Dayton police Maj. Wendy Stivers persistently asked protesters to move east along Fifth Street away from the shooting memorial.
“I support your right,” to protest, Stivers told one woman. “I served in the United States Army to protect and defend that right. But out of respect for my community, I’m just asking you guys one favor — if you guys could just take it down the street.”
Some people slowly complied, but in general, a mass of protesters remained lodged in front of Ned Peppers and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency offices. A heavy national-media presence was parked on the other side of Fifth all morning.
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With traffic moving freely along Fifth and no physical barriers erected, it was clear that Trump would not visit the Oregon District, where a Bellbrook man has been identified as having shot nine people early Sunday, moving from an alley next to Blind Bob’s bar across Fifth towards Ned Peppers.
Police shot the assailant, identified as Connor Betts, 24, before he could enter Ned Pepper’s, his apparent objective.
A woman who gave her name only as Felicia, 51, a Greene County resident, said she was troubled by Trump’s visit.
“I just hope it stays quiet so we can focus on a really painful experience that we’re having here in Dayton,” she said. “It’s a lot different when it’s close to home.” She endorsed Sen. Sherrod Brown’s call to bring the Senate back into session.
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich made an early appearance, signing the pavement before Ned Pepper’s bar, an area that has become a memorial to the nine fallen victims since early Sunday.
“I have a sense of what it’s like to have profound loss,” Kasich said. “The darkness that comes with profound loss. And just being here, it kind of reminds me of that in a much more personal way.”
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Kasich said visiting Dayton was Trump’s prerogative.
“He needs to come, and he needs to be a healer,” said Kasich, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican Party primary. “He needs to be strong, but he needs to be humble.”
Ultimately, it will be up to Dayton to heal Dayton, he said.