A few days after engaging with a table staffed by Clinton supporters (of course), College of Arts & Sciences sophomore, Christian Petrillo, had the “brilliant idea” to set up an opposing table to showcase the opposing party.
Petrillo believes Penn has only been getting one side of the election so, on Wednesday, November 2, he set up a table on Penn’s main thoroughfare, Locust Walk. He started to hand out Trump signs and flyers, to, not only defend his own position, but prove to the world that there are students at Trump’s alma mater that support him.
Now it may be a surprise that there are Ivy Leaguers that openly support Trump, but it was no surprise to Petrillo and Joseph Churilla, a freshman in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management &Technology, that there were supporters on Penn’s campus.
“We had a lot more people come by and give us a thumbs up or shake our hands and say ‘You have a lot of courage for being out here.’ ‘Good job.’ ‘It’s about time’” said Churilla when asked about positive reactions from people.
Unbeknownst to the student community here, there are Trump supporters, and guess what, you may be sitting next to one, *GASP.*
Although Penn is rated as a “green light school” for free speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, this rating only rates “colleges and universities whose policies nominally protect free speech.” So if you are thinking the Trump supporters could not possibly have had only positive reactions, especially after Hillary campaigned in Penn Park a few weeks earlier, you are absolutely correct. In fact, they had some disturbing encounters.
One of the first incidents was with a male who, Churilla presumed was a student, walked by the table and yelled “You guys are a bunch of faggots.” Now, it is clear that this man was not a Trump supporter and was just trying to incite hate and cause a scene. Petrillo is a gay man. Although the man did not know Petrillo, nor did he know Petrillo was gay, it is still uncalled for for him to yell hateful words just because of someone’s support of Trump.
The next incident was a little more egregious, in my opinion. Once again, a student, came up to the table without saying a word, picked up a Trump sign, ripped it in half, threw it on the ground and yelled “Trump is racist.” Once again, without engaging in an open discussion, let alone any discussion, the student tried to incite hate and provoke a response from those at the Trump table. (All I know is that this student was definitely not a Jill Stein supporter because I don’t think they would litter by leaving the ripped Trump sign on the ground.)
Lastly, the worst incident of them all, while Churilla was engaging in an open discussion with two Hillary supporters, “two girls came up [to the table] and grabbed about 80% of our flyers and ran off. My friend [who was not staffing the Trump table] ran after them down Locust and he put his arm on her shoulder from behind her to stop her and ask her if we [the table] could have the materials back.” Later, there were some Facebook posts mocking the Trump table for not having any flyers followed by a picture of a trash can filled with the flyers the girls took.
Overall, both Petrillo and Churilla thought the experience was a positive one. They were able to explain to people some of Trump’s policies and explain why they support him. Churilla likes how “he [Trump] is not afraid to state his opinions. He says what he believes. He is going to make government officials do what they are there for [their job].” Petrillo likes Trump because “…Trump is a disruptor, he is going to change things. I believe he will because they [the political class] do not like him, they don’t like him on K Street, they don’t like him on Wall Street…there are three branches of government in this country and it’s not like he is going to be a dictator. He is going to have to work with Congress and the Supreme Court. If we do elect Hillary and she gets to appoint one, two, maybe three justices to the Supreme Court, the next generation and the generation after that of our country will be unrecognizable. That will be what Reagan was referring to when we spend our later years in life wondering what it was like to be free.”