By the time 7:30 rolled around on a rainy, overcast evening in Billings, about 50 protesters had split up along either side of Mullowney Lane in front of the Red Lion Hotel and Convention Center for a protest timed with the arrival of Donald Trump Jr. in Billings to campaign for Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives Greg Gianforte.
Occasionally delivering chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Gianforte’s got to go!” protesters waved signs expressing disapproval for President Donald Trump, support for Rob Quist and disapproval of Greg Gianforte.
Several protesters said they were from Billings. At least a handful came to the protest from a campaign fundraiser for Rob Quist that was held in downtown Billings earlier in the evening.
By 8:35 p.m. no protesters remained. Earlier, some had crossed over onto hotel property and were asked to return to the roadside, said Sgt. Shane Winden of the Billings Police Department. As of 8:30 p.m., Winden was not aware of any arrests.
Photos: Greg Gianforte campaign with Donald Trump Jr. Friday
Images from Greg Gianforte’s campaign with Donald Trump Jr. at the Red Lion Hotel on Friday, April 21.
For Billings resident Kirk Blee, the presence of the younger Trump, who helps manage the Trump Organization business with his brother Eric Trump, represented what he sees as abuse of the United States government by the Trump family in order to advance themselves financially.
“His daughter’s making money off of this, he’s making money off of this, his kids are making money off of this,” Blee said. “He’s just robbing the country blind. I don’t really have much against Gianforte but he’s aligning himself with a monster. It’s disgusting. I can’t believe this is happening in America.”
Blee, a local property manager, said he views himself politically as an independent. Wearing a yellow rain jacket and holding a sign reading “Gianforte and Trump Make America Great Again=Billions In Tax Cuts For Them And Slogans And Ads for You,” Blee said he had “not really” protested anything before.
“I just don’t feel like I can’t be out here,” Blee said. “I don’t like Trump at all. I’ve seen Gianforte’s ads. He’s just a rubber stamp for Trump. Gianforte…I don’t share his beliefs but I thought he was a decent guy.”
The president was also largely what brought out Molly Newrones, a lifelong Montanan who said the 2016 election caused her to disavow the Republican party.
“I considered myself a moderate Republican but I just feel like that went by the wayside this election,” Newrones said. “I saw a man who inspired hate in a lot of people and behaves like a child and I just, I just don’t think that should be anywhere in the White house and I don’t think another millionaire needs to be in Congress.”
Newrones held a sign saying “Tell Daddy Stop Wasting My Money With Trips To Mar-A-Lago.”
“I think it’s hard to call yourself a fiscal conservative if you think it’s okay to spend taxpayer money to fly to Florida every single weekend,” she said.
Amelia Marquez, vice president of the Montana State University Billings College Democrats, said she thought people were protesting because they care about the future.
“We feel as though people like Greg Gianforte and Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump are going to hurt future generations,” she said. “I really hope that people stop and think for a second. Really look at the issues. Is this what I really align with? Is this what I’ve been taught to be for or against.”