Politics & Government

Lowcountry Immigration Coalition silently protests Donald Trump visit

Gerri Heilbraun holds a sign her husband, Stephen Korz, made for the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition's silent protest outside Donald Trump's speech Tuesday afternoon in Sun City Hilton Head.
Gerri Heilbraun holds a sign her husband, Stephen Korz, made for the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition's silent protest outside Donald Trump's speech Tuesday afternoon in Sun City Hilton Head. Staff photo

While Donald Trump loudly blasted illegal immigration as he spoke inside Sun City Hilton Head's Magnolia Hall on Tuesday, more than 60 members of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition held a silent protest outside.

Trump finished his remarks and darted to the black SUV waiting next to the coalition's gathering without comment.

"We felt our silent protest was well-received," coalition co-chair George Kanuck said. "We've been out here sweltering the whole time, but we know he saw us when he went by."

Trump has faced growing pressure and business fallout over his comments last month that demonized Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and criminals.

Outside Magnolia Hall, coalition members held signs that read "United Against Bigotry" and "How many feet can Donald insert in mouth?"

Inside the hall, Trump blasted the nation's existing immigration policies during his first South Carolina campaign stop.

But he was markedly less aggressive than his previous contentious commentary on the issue. "I want people to come into the country, but they have to do it through the legal process," he told the crowd.

On Tuesday, he again blamed the "media dissection" of his comment and repeated his recent claims that Hispanic voters actually favor Trump, who's currently leading the Republican polls.

"I have a lot of respect for Mexico, by the way," Trump said. "I love the Mexican people. I employ thousands of them. They love me; they love me."

Members of the immigration coalition disagree, saying Trump's border security philosophies are draconian and disrespectful to the nation's growing Hispanic communities.

"I believe he's a racist," said Gerri Heilbraun, who held a "Donald Duck NOT Donald Trump" sign. "I think we need one world, and I think he's making more of a problem."

This is as close as I will ever get to Donald Trump...#yolo #laislamagazine #lowcountryimmigrationcoalition

Posted by Jonathan Rivera on Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Of the 60 or so protesters in Sun City, only a handful were Hispanic.

More than 100 Hispanic members of the coalition from Bluffton and Hilton Head Island were unable to attend the protest because Sun City will only admit visitors through their gates if they have a pass from a current resident. Kanuck and Sun City members of the coalition felt uneasy bending the community's rules to call in a mass of passes for their protest, so many would-be protesters were cut out of the event.

That irony was not lost on Kanuck. But he said it was still important for the residents who could to "stand up for what we believe in."

"Immigrants are the lifeblood of the Lowcountry in so many ways," Kanuck said. "So we couldn't stand by as someone tarred them with hatred and bigotry."

Follow reporter Zach Murdock on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach and on Facebook at facebook.com/IPBGZach.

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