Column: Covering presidential visit was ‘positive and exhilarating’

By Kaitlyn Kozalla, features editor

(Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the Trump rally in Erie on Oct. 10. Taylor Munce’s column will be published Friday.)

As a student journalist interested in the presidential agenda, I decided to take to the streets of Erie to find out what a “MAGA rally” was all about. Upon arriving at the Erie Insurance Arena on October 10, I saw a sea of patriotism and “Make America Great Again” apparel. Protesters waved signs which said “Promises made, promises broken” and “Liar-in-Chief,” standing up for their beliefs. Regardless of partisan opinion, President Trump attracted crowds Wednesday night in Erie.

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Kaityln Kozalla, the Panther Press, with Jim Acosta, Chief White House Correspondent for CNN

As soon as I stepped into the long line outside the arena, I noticed an overbearing number of vendors swarming the huge crowd. Loud music played, and I watched people dancing and singing, excited for the coming event. As the line moved forward, protesters continued to chant “Trump has got to go,” and “Impeach Trump.”

Although the rally almost didn’t take place because of Hurricane Michael’s impact on Florida’s panhandle, President Trump stated that he did not want to let down the thousands who had probably lined up to attend in advance. That being said, the nine-thousand seat arena was packed and thousands more watched on the big screen outside.

President Trump’s  speech focused primarily on his victories and foreshadowed a “red wave” in the upcoming election. One of the most rehashed topics of the night was the creation of jobs and the drop in the unemployment rate. “Under Republican leadership, America is booming, America is thriving, and America is winning like never before, because we are finally putting America first. Just two days ago, the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level in 50 years. It was just announced that manufacturing confidence is at an all-time high,” President Trump said.

He also included his initiative to bring back American-made steel. “We don’t need this product coming in untested from other countries,” Trump said. “We don’t need it, folks. We’ve got it here. We don’t need it.” And he covered the recent confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. This controversial topic drew mixed reactions, with both boos and cheers coming from the crowd.

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Kaitlyn Kozalla with Glenn Thompson, U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.

In addition to hearing the president speak, I also had the once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to meet Jim Acosta, CNN’s Chief White House correspondent. As a right-wing conservative, I was impressed with the friendliness of this noted journalist from what most consider a liberal news outlet. I also met Glenn Thompson, U. S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District, who asked to have his picture taken with me. He mentioned that this was the first time he had requested to be photographed with any member of the press.

And in what was probably the most random and interesting thing to happen, I was approached by a Saegertown alumni who works for the Secret Service. The agent, upon seeing the Panther Press shirts my colleagues and I were wearing, presented us with commemorative secret service pins.

As the rally came to a close, I was not disappointed. Covering the president’s visit to Erie as a student journalist was a positive and exhilarating experience.

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