Four Virginia Beach police officers stood outside the Westin Hotel in downtown Virginia Beach Monday looking over a crowd of about 30 people who came to voice their political opinions.
Behind the officers, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, was inside the hotel at 4345 Main St. speaking to supporters about veterans affairs.
The event wasn’t open to the public, but a small crowd, consisting primarily of Trump opponents, gathered across the street from the hotel to make their presence known.
“I think Trump represents a grave danger to our community,” Suffolk resident Steven Whear said outside the Westin.
Whear, who retired from the U.S. Navy just a few weeks ago after 20 years of service, said he feels well taken care of as a new military veteran. The Department of Veteran Affairs’ hospital crises involving patients having to endure extensive wait times before being seen by doctors has pretty much been resolved over the past three years, he said.
“I think putting a lot more federal funding into the VA isn’t going to really help solve much of anything,” he said.
Whear said he would rather see additional federal money spent on military defense, Medicare or reducing the national debt.
Also standing outside the Westin on Monday was John Bloom, a Newport News resident who opposes Trump’s presidential candidacy, but also that of Trump’s Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton.
While acknowledging that most of Trump’s opponents are Democrats, Bloom said, “There are a whole bunch of us conservatives that believe Trump lied his way to the nomination.”
Bloom, a member of The Constitution Party, said he came to the Westin on Monday in hopes of persuading conservative voters who are unhappy with Trump as the Republican choice for president to consider other alternatives besides Clinton.
The Constitution Party is offering as its presidential candidate Darrell Castle of Tennessee, an attorney and a U.S. Marine veteran of the Vietnam War.
Trump supporter Anne Tammaro, who works in Virginia Beach, stood just outside the Westin’s entrance with a “Trump 2016” sign. She stopped by the event on her way home from work.
“I knew I wanted to come down to support Trump,” Tammaro said. “I think if Hillary gets in, after the last eight years, the country will suffer irreversible damage.”
Police officers blocked off most of Commerce Street for Monday’s event.
Two supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement also were present, as was a supporter of Veterans for Peace, an organization of veterans who promote a culture of peace and are dedicated to exposing the costs of war.
“Silence is complicity,” said Tom Palumbo, who held a Veterans for Peace flag outside the hotel where Trump was speaking. “When you’re silent about this stuff, you’re part of the problem.”