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My night with Donald Trump supporters

As returns were coming in on Tuesday night, a diverse group of about 50 Donald J. Trump supporters chanted “USA” and held an anxious vigil outside the Hilton on Sixth Avenue, where the Republican candidate and his family awaited results. The police had cordoned off the area with steel barricades so the Trump fans and journalists covering them were confined to a small space. Eight black activists carried large “Blacks for Trump” signs. Other Trump supporters wore yarmulkes. Many in the crowd wore the red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps that dominated Trump rallies throughout the campaign.

At 9:41 p.m., CNN reported that the Democratic contender, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had 104 Electoral College votes and Trump had 37 with a slight lead in Florida. Sarah Bruno, 33, a lifelong Republican, said she was sure Trump could win even though the vast majority of polls said Clinton had the edge.

Trump supporter Sara Burno holding up a DRAIN THE SWAMP sign.

Trump supporter Sarah Bruno. (Nadeem Shad)

But she doubted that the election results would be fair. “I think the election is rigged,” she said.
Bruno said she often felt lonely in her support for Trump. No one else in her Ecuadorian-American family had voted for him.“I normally keep my political opinions to myself,” she said.

But on Tuesday, she found her political family in the rowdy crowd on Sixth Avenue. “I came because I wanted to support him after all the volunteering I’ve done and to meet other Trump supporters,” she said. “I’ve been called a whore, stupid, bitch and I just wanted to meet other people like me here.” Bruno said she had been campaigning for Trump during the election, giving out flyers daily.

By 10:32 p.m., the crowd was getting larger. Trump supporters drove past in cars waving Trump signs. A man took out his phone and declared that The New York Times had announced that Trump had an 87 percent chance of winning as the crowd yelled out “Red, Black and White, Must Unite!” “New York loves Trump!” and “President Trump.”

A Trump supporter waving a sign from the back of a car.

A Trump supporter shows his colors from a car. (Nadeem Shad)

Two 18-year-old women stood behind the steel barricades watching the spectacle. Lea Ricci from Virginia and Erin Lesko from Ohio are studying at LIM College in Midtown. Neither had voted. “We just didn’t get around to it,” said Lesko, “but if we did, we would have voted for Trump.”

Two Trump supporters smiling as they hug.

Student Trump supporters Erin Lesko and Lea Ricci. (Nadeem Shad)

They were not impressed by Clinton. “I don’t like the way she goes after millennials with celebrity endorsements,” said Lesko. “I don’t care who Beyoncé votes for.”

At 10:39 p.m., word spread through the crowd that Trump had just won Ohio.

Seventeen-year-old Heshy Cohen from Brooklyn was by far the most vocal supporter there. He was draped in a “Support Trump” flag. Too young to vote, he was eager to speak to the press as much as possible.

“I believe in America, not globalism,” Cohen said. “I want a President who’s not controlled by the Saudis or Qataris. He’s not going to be president of the world. He’s working for us. That’s when I knew I was for him.”

After Cohen walked away, an unidentified man in the crowd shouted, “We have the Jews on our side, too.” Nine minutes later, The New York Times reported that Trump has taken North Carolina, giving him 187 Electoral College votes with 175 for Clinton.

Tonye-D’mitria Vickers, 32, who said he was a gay black model from Bensonhurst and an ardent Trump supporter, bought donuts and coffee for his fellow supporters all day.

A Black Trump supporter in a camo MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat.

Tonye-D’mitria Vickers outside the Hilton. (Nadeem Shad)

“I know he’s going to win and it will be a landslide,” Vickers said. “I support him because he doesn’t look at race, sex or religion. He looks at you as an American and unlike Obama he won’t be a puppet and betray us and do nothing.”

By 1:20 a.m., CNN was reporting that Trump had 244 Electoral College votes with 215 for Clinton. The hopeful optimism earlier in the night turned into full-blown jubilation. “I’m going to get drunk tonight and celebrate,” Bruno said. What was the first thing she wanted Trump to do? “Repeal Obamacare!” she shouted enthusiastically before being pulled away into the crowd.

A few minutes later, anti-Trump protesters arrived and more than 50 police officers moved the crowd along as the two groups traded insults.

Police outside Trump Tower.

Police surround the area after anti-Trump activists arrive. (Nadeem Shad)

A young man spit at the ground in front of two people who were shouting “burn the bitch.” He refused to give his name but said he was not a Trump supporter. Another man wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap ran after him shouting, “We need to come together as a country now.”

This piece originally appeared on Medium and The Ink.NYC, and has been reprinted with permission.

Header image: Trump supporters embraced after official announcement that Trump had won. (Nadeem Shad)