Trump visits Philadelphia for town hall with undecided voters

Some Temple students protested the president at Independence Mall while he held a town hall with George Stephanopoulos inside the National Constitution Center.

A woman in a Trump mask dances in front of Trump supporters and protesters at Independence Mall on Sept. 15. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

United States President Donald Trump visited Philadelphia for a 90-minute town hall at the National Constitution Center, where undecided Pennsylvanian voters questioned him about the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy Tuesday night. 

The town hall was nationally broadcasted by ABC and moderated by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. 

At the town hall, Trump fielded questions from Stephanopoulos and the voters, some of whom sat socially distanced in the audience of the Constitution Center. In addition to discussing the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump touched on topics like immigration, the military and health care.

A crowd of hundreds gathered on Independence Mall several hours before the town hall was broadcast, with a few dozen showing support for the president while counter protestors played music and led chants against Trump’s visit. 

“When you remove a strong masculine figure, you essentially get this,” said Axel Gonzalez, 20, an online marketer who is staying in a hotel on 15th Street and supports Trump, as he gestured to the liberal crowd. “A crowd of emotional people who can’t control their feelings.” 

Natalie Chen, 32, an optometrist who lives on 10th Street and Snyder Avenue, voted for Trump in 2016 and will again because he sticks to his promises, she said. In the past, she felt uncomfortable showing her support for Trump, she added.

“Our country is moving in the direction of socialism, and socialism will eventually become communism,” said Chen, who immigrated to the U.S. from China when she was 13. “Coming from a country with the Chinese Communist Party, I realized I know how devastating it is to live in a communist country.” 

Some Temple University students joined the crowds of Philadelphians protesting the event. Protests during the day began in front of the WPVI-TV headquarters, located on City Avenue near Monument Street, at noon, before moving to Independence Mall at around 5 p.m.

“I’m out here just for people who have been oppressed by our country that I don’t quite think is following its democratic principles anymore,” said Jack Harrison, a junior media studies and production major who protested in front of Independence Hall. 

Student protesters criticized the Trump administration’s efforts to address police brutality and racial injustice. During the town hall, Trump said cities must “give the police back” the strength they once had, particularly in non-Republican areas.

“We’re losing lives due to police brutality due to what Trump is doing in the White House,” said Katie Gagliano, a sophomore mechanical engineering major who protested on Independence Mall. 

Aiden Curry, a sophomore chemistry major, criticized the Trump administration’s approach to climate change. 

“I’m a one-issue voter,” Curry said. “Climate change. Trump is doing nothing for us. He’s actually reversing everything we did.” 

Trump said later in the night that he gets “things done like nobody has ever gotten” in regard to environmental policy.

Students also criticized how the Trump administration has navigated health care, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A lot of the health care stuff is really important to me,” said Jane Horman, a sophomore anthropology major who has Type 1 diabetes. “I’m kind of over my friends lives’ being threatened, my life being threatened.”

CNN will host a town hall for Democratic nominee Joe Biden to answer undecided voters’ questions in Scranton Thursday night, which will be moderated by Anderson Cooper and also feature a socially-distanced live audience.

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