Despite protests, presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a fundraiser for the Suffolk County Republican party in Patchogue.
The event ignited controversy because it was held just a few blocks away from the hate killing of an Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, who was killed by seven teenagers who made sport of targeting Latinos. The fundraiser attracted some 600 demonstrators, both for and against Trump.
Down the block from the GOP fundraiser, community members came together to hold a vigil for Lucero.
Local officials and Latino advocates wanted the event moved because of what they call Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric. But during his speech, Trump avoided his more controversial language.
Some of Trump’s supporters, like Eric Peterson, believe that Lucero’s murder eight years ago is unrelated to the decision to have Trump’s fundraiser at the Emporium.
“I believe that as a free country we’re able to have the debate and campaigns wherever we want,” Peterson said.
Inside, Trump discussed Long Island’s manufacturing job losses and his plans to create better trade deals.
“What's more important to you, the wall or the trade deal,” Trump said. “We'll talk about trade."
Trump jabbed at local politicians for allowing the manufacturing jobs to leave the Island in the first place.
“I can’t believe you guys would allow that to happen,” Trump said. “What the hell? Are you getting soft? They’re getting soft on me. I don’t believe this.”
John Jay LaValle, the Suffolk County Republican chairman, who invited Trump to the event, said that Trump’s a New Yorker who speaks straight.
“You know we have the same problems that people have across this country, and we’re only 50 miles from the economic capital of the world. So imagine how bad people are hurting across this country,” LaValle said.
Hundreds of people came to Patchogue to protest trump and to show support for him. In his speech, Trump left out some of his more controversial statements on immigration.
Trump's appearance wasn’t as raucous as Village Mayor Paul Pontieri expected.
“This, today, it seems to be very calm,” Pontieri said. “It seems to be very much under control and it seems to be what it should be.”
Pontieri says the village worked with Suffolk County Police and the Secret Service to ensure violence did not break out. There were no arrests last night.