Trump supporters, free speech advocates rally in Easthampton

  • Don Kelley, who declined to say where he lives, holds a “Trump 2020” flag at a rally in Easthampton on Thursday. A counterprotester is seen at right. Gazette staff/Brian Steele

  • A rally-goer argues with a counterprotester at a pro-Trump rally in Easthampton on Thursday. Gazette staff/Brian Steele

Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2021 9:27:31 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Supporters of former President Donald Trump, advocates for free speech and critics of socialism held a rally at Pulaski Park on Thursday evening, citing a variety of concerns about the direction of the country under the Biden administration.

With more than a dozen people demonstrating, some attendees held pro-police “Back the Blue” signs or expressed their support for the former president’s hard-line immigration policies, while others said they were afraid of losing personal liberties like the right to reject the COVID-19 vaccine.

Don Kelley, a U.S. Army veteran who declined to say where he lives due to distrust of the media and fear of reprisals by left-wing activists, held a “Trump 2020” flag. He said he was “worried about losing my country, in every way.”

“They’re talking about going house to house, forcing vaccines on people,” he said of an administration plan to go door-to-door offering people help getting vaccinated. “That’s not right. And they’re talking about taking people’s guns,” Kelley said. “I don’t know why they hate freedom so much. I don’t understand it.”

He said Trump supporters “want the truth about the real vote” in 2020, when President Joe Biden unseated Trump after both candidates earned record-breaking vote totals. Election audits performed in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania all failed to find widespread voter fraud, while a controversial review of ballots is still underway in Arizona.

Tom Emerson carried an American flag and, like Kelley, declined to say where he lives because he does not trust the media. He said he works in the “health field,” and that many common claims about COVID-19 — that wearing a mask prevents infection, for instance — are “bull.”

Emerson said prominent Democrats “were only worried about the virus when they were on camera. As soon as the cameras went off, the masks came off, and they were all congregating together” in violation of social distancing guidelines.

“It’s all about control,” said Emerson.

He criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, for the COVID-19 crisis in that state’s nursing homes. The FBI is investigating Cuomo’s administration amid claims that officials lied to state lawmakers about the pandemic’s death toll.

“Cuomo should be tarred, feathered and put in jail,” said Emerson. 

Other demonstrators — at least 15 were present at around 6 p.m. — held signs decrying socialism and promoting free speech rights.

A counterprotester carried a sign reading “You have an ecological responsibility” and approached some of the rallygoers to say that Trump is a “traitor” who is going to jail, and to challenge their Christian faith as “mythology.” Some drivers passing the rally shouted in opposition — “You’re in the wrong town” and “He lost! Get over it!” — while others honked and shouted out in support.

“If (Republicans) try to debate, we’re called haters and we’re called all kinds of names, but you have your right to an opinion,” said Emerson. “They instigate with us, and if something does happen, they always want to blame us. … These people are literally crazy.”

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.

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