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The Dartmouth
April 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Former U.S. President Donald Trump holds rally in Claremont, New Hampshire

The former President visited the Upper Valley to deliver a nearly two-hour campaign speech at Stevens High School as part of his 2024 reelection bid.

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At 2 p.m. on Saturday, former President Donald Trump visited the Upper Valley to deliver a nearly two-hour campaign speech at Stevens High School in Claremont, New Hampshire. The event reached full capacity before its scheduled start, and some attendees were turned away. 

Trump spoke at length about his four criminal indictments and his military defense policy, as well as veterans in honor of Veterans Day, which is commemorated annually on Nov. 11. 

Dozens of pro-Trump signs were on the street approaching Stevens High School, while protesters held up anti-Trump signs bearing slogans such as “lock him up.” Closer to the school, vendors also sold Trump merchandise, and many attendees wore hats or shirts with slogans, such as t-shirts bearing Trump’s Fulton County Jail mugshot. 

“I am being indicted for you,” Trump said. “Never forget, our enemies want to take away my freedom because I will never let them take away your freedom. In the end, they’re not after me, they’re after you; I’m just standing in their way.”

Trump, the first former U.S. president to be indicted on any criminal charges, is currently in the midst of a Georgia election fraud case, a New York hush money case and two federal cases on election interference and mishandling of classified documents.

Trump’s message revolved around the idea that he is the only hope for a “nation in serious decline.” 

“The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within,” he said. 

Trump also made a pitch to voters about his foreign policy, referring to himself as “the only candidate in either party” who could completely prevent the breakout of a hypothetical World War III.

Because of “what’s going on right now in the Middle East and Ukraine,” a global war “has never been closer,” Trump said. “...I alone in this primary have borne the burden of having troops in harm’s way as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. Neocons, globalists and warmongers in this race like to talk tough. These people are way over their heads.”

Trump declared that he would prevent American troops from being sent to fight in foreign countries if a global war were to break out.  

“If you don’t want your nation wrecked; if you don’t want your economy destroyed; if you don’t want American blood or American treasure squandered in a needless global war, you have to vote for a gentleman named Donald J. Trump,” he said.

Eric, a University of Massachusetts student who declined to provide his last name, said he was a “huge Trump fan,” adding that he appreciated the former President’s focus on foreign policy. 

“Trump doesn’t say this in anywhere as extreme of a way as [Republican presidential candidate] Vivek [Ramaswamy],” he said. “Trump is avoiding going too deep on calling out warmongering yet.” 

During the Nov. 8 Republican debate, Ramaswamy spoke about “bloodthirsty members of both parties” who have a “hunger” for war, in reference to the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.

Trump told a variety of stories and jokes over the course of his speech, including teasing his GOP primary rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.  

“I don’t have six-inch heels!” Trump joked, referencing a pair of DeSantis’s boots, which have become a common jab from the governor’s primary rivals.  

Many people in the audience held up white signs with the slogan “peace through strength.”

“To me, ‘peace through strength’ is not just a political slogan, it’s actually a moral duty, and it’s my commitment to you, the American people,” Trump said. “As president, I will restore American strength, power and prestige. I will be the peacemaker.”

Trump listed his foreign policy accomplishments, including being the “first president in decades not to start a war,” overseeing General Qasem Soleimani’s assassination and presiding over the Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab countries. He also proposed building a missile defense system in the U.S. similar to Israel’s Iron Dome.

On domestic policy, Trump endorsed instituting the death penalty for drug dealers, arguing that China has “no drug problem” because it imposes capital punishment for illegal sellers.

“You want to solve your drug problem?” Trump asked. “You have to institute a meaningful death penalty for drug deals.”

Trump conducted a straw poll of the room, which resulted in a majority supporting the death penalty for drug dealers.

Trump noted New Hampshire has a “worse drug problem” than any other state. “If you give the death penalty to drug dealers, you will have no more problems,” he said.

New Hampshire has the third highest number of drug overdose deaths in the country, according to the CDC.

Trump also argued that domestically, “veterans are once again being backstabbed and betrayed by their government.” 

Trump promised a Veterans Affairs hospital in New Hampshire, and denounced Biden’s administration, which he alleged had “gutted our historic VA reforms.” 

“I’ll also make it my personal mission to completely eradicate veteran homelessness in America,” Trump said. To accomplish this, Trump said he would use money President Biden has devoted to help shelter undocumented immigrants to instead “provide shelter and treatment for our own homeless veterans.” 

Aneesh, who drove six hours from Rochester, New York to attend the campaign rally and declined to provide his last name, said that although he was undecided in the Republican primary, in a Trump vs. Biden general election, he would vote for Trump “100%.”

“Joe Biden is not fit to run for office,” Aneesh said.

Nicholas Bouley, a self-described “huge Trump supporter” who lives in Claremont, said he “went to every single Trump rally there was” when he lived in Troy, New Hampshire with his parents. It has been his “dream” to go to a Trump rally on his own.

“I just wanted to be part of a big community of people that have the same beliefs as I do,” Bouley said. “I just wanted to … be with my kind of people.”

Bouley said that he was excited by Trump’s beliefs, policies and his promise to give back “all of our jobs.” 

“I feel like this is where I belong: it’s just like one big family that I feel like I am a part of,” Bouley said. 

Peter, a Trump supporter from Newport, New Hampshire who declined to disclose his last name, said he and his wife both “love Trump.”

“We’d like to see the country come back again,” he said. “It’s time to pick common sense.”