About 30 people carrying picket signs and chanting slogans gathered near Meadows Field Airport on Wednesday afternoon to protest during President Donald Trump’s brief stop in Bakersfield.
But the small group was dwarfed by thousands of Trump supporters who came out in hopes of catching a glimpse of Air Force One — or even the president himself — many showing that they back the president and his actions and policies.
The anti-Trump demonstrators carried signs that read, “Impeached forever,” and “We are all immigrants.” They chanted, ”Love, not hate, that’s what makes America great,” and “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Donald Trump has got to go.”
Gabriela Facio, a 23-year-old student at Bakersfield College who works as a volunteer for the Bernie Sanders campaign, was among the demonstrators.
“Trump does not support the working class,” she said. “He’s not welcome in Kern County.”
Just a few feet away from the anti-Trump demonstrators, Devin Christensen helds a flag depicting President Trump as the movie character Rambo. The flag was emblazoned with the words, "Make America great again."
Christensen said he knew he wouldn't get to see the president, but wanted to come out "to show support."
Both sides appeared to be enjoying the afternoon, and as cars and trucks rolled by the line of protesters, some of those inside the vehicles would hoot or yell. By mid-afternoon, a brief scuffle or fight broke out between what appeared to be a Trump supporter and a Trump critic. But for the most part, the protesters and supporters appeared to coexist peacefully.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Roland and Becky Bernabe, who live in Bakersfield in the winter and Utah the rest of the year, carried a hand-drawn sign in Bakersfield's downtown business district decorated with the words, “Utah fans of Mitt.”
They said they wanted to be more positive, and praising Trump critic Mitt Romney, a man from the president’s own party who drew millions of votes as the the Republican nominee in the 2012 election, seemed nicer than bashing Trump directly.
The bi-state couple said Romney showed courage and integrity by standing against his party's leadership to vote to convict the president in his recent impeachment trial.
“We don’t agree with all of his positions, but Mitt stood up, he had courage,” Roland Bernabe said. “He voted ‘yes’ on impeachment.”
The couple were among a modest group that gathered near the mural of Cesar Chavez on L Street, a warmup of sorts for the afternoon event as picket signs were painted and plans were made.
Julie Solis, Democratic candidate for the 34th Assembly District and one of the organizers of the rally, said she chose the location of the Cesar Chavez mural because its recent defacement was another sign that overt racism is on the rise in Kern County due to what she says is the president’s tacit approval of the mistreatment of minorities.
“It was a sign that racism is still alive and thriving in Kern County,” she said of the damage to the mural of the farm worker labor leader.
As he painted picket signs for the afternoon event, organizer Carlos Ramos said there is a strong perception here that Kern County is Trump country. But he believes that perception is changing.
"We definitely would have liked to see more people," he said of the turnout. "But the people here have a strong message.
"We all came for different reasons," Ramos said. "But we all agree we need new leadership in the White House."