Trump Presidency Brings Mixed Emotions In Connecticut

Donald Trump was sworn in as president Friday – bringing mixed feelings to people around the country and in the state of Connecticut.

Emotions, often strong, remain largely what they were when Trump, a Republican, won the election over Hillary Clinton in early November.

Those emotions ranged Friday morning from cautious optimism in the Farmington Valley to grave concern in West Hartford and for some at UConn. Others from Connecticut couldn't help but travel to Washington D.C. to witness the spectacle of a new president taking over or protest for the rights of women, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community and others who have felt threatened by the new regime.

In Windham

More than 100 people turned out under chilly gray skies Friday afternoon to celebrate the Windham Town Council's declaration to make this community a "Sanctuary City" that will do its best to welcome and protect immigrants from being deported under President Donald Trump's administration.

"This is not any kind of an anti-Trump rally," said one of the organizers, Renato Muguerza Calle. "We're doing a pro-immigrant rally."

Jerry Phillips, an African-American who originally immigrated to the U.S. in 1988, took part in the rally and does hope it will "send a message to Trump." But Phillips said his primary reason for joining the rally was "in support of the principle that all people are people and that's more important than national borders."

"The U.S. has always been a country of immigrants," Phillips added, "and many of them came here without papers and then became citizens."

Stephanie Marquez arrived in the U.S. from her native Peru in 1998 and only became a legal permanent resident this past October. She stood with others near the corner of one of Willimantic's busiest intersections, waving a pro-immigrant sign as passing cars and trucks honked in support. Willimantic is a heavily minority section of Windham.

"I'm here for the Sanctuary City," Marquez said. "I don't want to give Trump any publicity," she said when asked how she felt about his inauguration. "He doesn't need it. I'm here because I want Willimantic residents to know they're welcome and safe."

State Republican Headquarters, Hartford

About 15 enthusiastic Republicans gathered at the state party headquarters in Hartford and cheered when Trump was introduced. They listened quietly to the speeches but broke out into applause at times.

The crowd stood in Hartford when the announcer asked those in Washington to stand, and some of them sang "America the Beautiful" as others sang in Washington.

"Our moment has arrived!" one Republican said. "Hallelujah!"

The most outwardly enthusiastic person at the state Republican headquarters Friday was Mary Ann Turner, the longtime chairwoman of the Enfield town committee.

Even before Trump's speech, Turner started clapping when she saw Melania Trump walk onto the screen on the FOX News Channel that the Republicans were watching.

"Oh, my God, I love this!" Turner exclaimed. "We're so lucky. Elegance in the White House. I'll take it any day."

Turner had a big smile on her face during Trump's 16-minute speech and often responded to his comments.

When Trump criticized politicians who are "all talk and no action," Turner said, "Yes! Yes! We're listening to the coach in the locker room."

After the speech , she said, "It's a great day. I'm very, very thrilled. I'm extremely happy about President Trump. His first 100 days are going to blow the socks off any other president's first 100 days."

The Farmington Valley

Despite rhetoric critical of Muslim immigration and of the faith, members of the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center in Avon said they are hoping for the best after Trump's inauguration.

The center held its regular Friday service, which was attended by more than 100 people, including representatives of Trinity Episcopal Church in Canton and a group of teachers from Farmington High School. Center members talked about potentially good things they see in the Trump administration and said they are hoping the United States remains welcoming of newcomers. Several talked about the possibility of changes in the country's foreign relations that the like, including better relations with Russia and a more aggressive stance toward the terrorist group ISIS.

"I am excited that we have a change of the guard who seems to have a different attitude," said Mohammed Pasha of Farmington. "I am not sure that we as Muslims have anything to fear. Are we really going to go to the point where people's rights are eroded? I don't think so."

That sentiment was echoed by Saaid Elhadad, also of Farmington. "Americans are beautiful, smart people. They won't let anyone change their way of life without a fight," he said.

Friday's service included a sermon by Omar Tawil, a student at Hartford Seminary. He said before the service he is hoping that with the election past Americans can tolerate opposing viewpoints. Tawil said the rhetoric in the election and its impact on people worried him but that he thinks limitations are in place that would protect Muslims.

"The administration has changed but the laws and what is allowed has not changed," Tawil said.

In his sermon, Tawil encouraged center members to empathize as much as possible with people of differing opinions and that their faith in Godl calls on them to remain involved and active in their communities.

"We have an amazing task before us," Tawil told center members. "In the rhetoric that has been spewed in the past year there are things we Muslims should be worried about. But we don't want to let it get to the point where we are discouraged from participating and interacting in the political and interfaith realms," Tawil said during his sermon.

Before the inauguration there was a mix of cautious optimism and worry among patrons at LaSalle Market, a popular gathering spot in the Collinsville section of Canton. Clinton fared well in the Farmington Valley, winning Farmington, Avon, Simsbury, Canton and Granby.

Will Lettick, who stopped at LaSalle for a cup of coffee before work, said he voted for Trump and is now worried about a backlash against him. "I wish Trump the best, I think he is good for the country," Lettick said. "But I am worried about protesters and revolt, people trying to bring the country down."

Yale University, New Haven

Later in the day, a hive of activity formed not far from Yale's campus.

A collection of civil rights groups, including Latinos United in Action, the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance and the ANSWER Coalition gathered at New Haven City Hall for a "general strike" against Trump's inauguration.

"This is a way to tell him that he's not our president and that even though he is president, we will fight against his rhetoric of hate," said John Lugo, a member of a Latinos United and one of the rally's organizers.

Lugo said this city's sizable immigrant and refugee populations are fearful that Trump will increase the aggressive raids that were in place before Obama took office.

In that vein, the rally featured informational sessions, complete with videos, about citizens' rights and ways they can "unite to make sure our voices are heard," Lugo said.

After the rally, the groups took to the streets of New Haven, marching together to prepare for what some protestors called "the next four years of fighting."

"This is not new for us: we marched when Trump started using hate speech, we marched when he won the primary and we march now," Lugo said. "Now is the time for us to come together, all the communities, and talk about the challenges we all will face."

On Yale's campus only one formal watch party was held, and it was at the request of about 20 exchange students from SunYat-Sen university in Guangzhou, China.

"It's important for people around the world to know that the people who believe in the project that is America don't think it's dead," said Josh Hochman, the president of Yale College Democrats and a speaker at the gathering. "And to know that there are people ready to fight for it."

The guest students received a crash-course in the American political machine and the "peaceful transfer of power" unfolding live before them via a video stream on YouTube.

Lessons ranged from explaining who John Boehner is to outlining the time-honored tradition of using Abraham Lincoln's bible for the swearing in.

The students expressed genuine curiosity, and shared some frank, surprising opinions of the new commander in chief.

Aside from the watch party, Hochman said his group wasn't active Friday – they're busy making plans to head down to Saturday's Women's March in Washington, as well as participate in a similar protest event in New Haven.

But he didn't mince words about the young Democrats' reaction to the Trump presidency.

"We're at a moment where we fear that our values have been rejected, but we still have to respect the institution of government that have persisted and served us well," Hochman said. "Our leaders also used to have that respect, but our fear is that trump doesn't have that respect for democracy and the rule of law."

"Trump is my president," he added," but we're going to make sure he knows he isn't our king."

But the lack of activity on Yale's campus Friday wasn't restricted to the political left.

It's never an easy time to be a conservative here, but even less so during this political cycle, at least according to Declan Kunkel, the chairman of the Yale Tory Party, which describes itself as "the foremost society of conservatives within the Yale Political Union "

"People are definitely keeping a low profile today," Kunkel, a sophomore from Fort Worth, Texas, said as he sat in Jojo's, a coffee shop a few blocks from campus.

The majority of the self-identifying Republicans at the New Haven university are "establishment GOP folks," he said, which, he added, "is not what this administration is."

Kunkel said he wanted to give Trump a chance and just a half-hour before the president took his oath, Kunkel explained why.

He's emboldened by Trump's focus on the economy, and was encouraged at the news that Lockheed Martin will keep its defense contracts, to the benefit of his native Lone Star State.

"I'd like to see meaningful financial growth," Kunkel said. "And I'd like to see effective foreign policy that doesn't neglect Southeast Asia."

He doesn't pay much attention to the criticisms lobbied against Trump's character: "We've seen a lot of presidents with serious charter flaws," he argued.

"I don't think a good character has ever been a qualification for office," he said. "Do I condone the alleged assaults he's accused of? Of course not. But since he's the president, I think we need to judge him more on his policies."

Watkinson School, Hartford

The impending Trump presidency stirred a gamut of emotions at the private Watkinson School in Hartford, from anxiety and dread to relief and excitement.

As the minutes ticked closer to Trump's swearing-in – Watkinson streamed CNN's coverage on a big screen in the library – some students lamented a country divided.

Seniors Grace Crosson, 17, and Michaela Boyle, 18, West Hartford residents who planned to attend the women's march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, said they were concerned about Trump's "unpredictability," his cabinet choices, and his previous coarse remarks about women. They found themselves grateful for the Constitution's checks and balances.

"I'm just hopeful that maybe he's not as bad as he's let on," Boyle said. "Maybe he'll be able to govern responsibly and respect all women and men."

Owen West, 17, acknowledged that some of his schoolmates were "definitely not happy." But he was thrilled. The junior from Canton wore his red "Make America Great Again" cap to school and said he was hopeful for conservative Supreme Court picks and a hard line on immigration under Trump. Kelin Morris, an 18-year-old senior from West Hartford who founded the school's Young Conservatives group, said she was among the political minority at school and has engaged in her share of uncomfortable conversations.

"People accuse Trump supporters of being racist, homophobic, xenophobic," Morris said. And there's a share of Trump supporters, she said, who "accuse the left of being the opposite – not accepting of their beliefs ... . At the end of the day, we're all Americans and I think that's really important to remember."

"Personally, I'm scared," said Eve Doolittle, 15, a Watkinson sophomore from West Hartford who is part of the school's Safe Club, a gay-straight alliance. "But I think it's really important to channel fear and doubt into change instead of just sitting around and feeling helpless. At the same time, I think it's important to respect everyone's opinion, even if we don't agree. We don't need more hate."

Later, the school library was funereally silent as Trump gave his inaugural speech -- the only sounds, aside from the president's broadcasted voice, were the occasional zipping of a backpack, a door opening and closing, and a cleared throat. Several dozen students watched the proceedings, some sinking in their seats.

"It's surreal," said Niyanna Allen, 15, a sophomore from Hartford.

At UConn

More than 50 University of Connecticut students, faculty and staff showed up at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on the school's main campus in Mansfield Friday morning to offer their thoughts, readings and poetry concerning this nation on the day of Donald Trump's inauguration.

Joseph Cooper, an assistant professor in the school of education and an African American, said he felt Americans needed to "reflect on where we are in 2017" and remember that at the founding of the U.S. "people like me were viewed as property and were kept in shackles and chains." He said discrimination remains in this country, but that people of color who attempt to speak about it are told, "How dare you bring up the race issue."

Cooper said the situation is made worse when "the individual elected president… chooses to condone it."

"The resistance we face today is no different than the resistance we faced centuries ago," Cooper said, and he urged those attending to, "If you care about people… continue to work for social justice."

One of those at the event was Rachel Jackson, a program administrator for the Human Rights Institute at UConn, who said Trump's inauguration has left her "anxious and scared."

But she said she was "happy to be here today" to participate with others as an "alternative to watching [the Trump inauguration] on TV."

Jackson said she voted for Hillary Clinton and is worried "about the overall tone and what this country will become under a Trump presidency."

Mark Overmyer-Velazquez, director of UConn's Institute of Latino and Latin American Studies, told the crowd how his grandfather crossed into the U.S. from Mexico in 1950 but eventually became a U.S. citizen. He read a poem his grandfather wrote in Spanish "about encouraging the next generation… to continue with courage toward justice."

Others on campus, like Tom Sullivan, a 22-year-old senior from Rocky Hill, said they aren't paying as much attention to the inauguration. Sullivan voted for Trump, he said.

"I'm indifferent about it," Sullivan said. "Everyone is freaking out about it, but in four years, if he's done good, Trump will get reelected. If he hasn't, he won't."

In Downtown Hartford

In Hartford Friday, some people were optimistic and others appeared worried.

"I'm fearful," said Dennis Parker, an attorney from Westchester, N.Y. who was visiting the city. "I think that [Trump's] election revealed a lot of rifts in the country – racial divides, ethnic divides. I'm worried that it has given license for people to be openly discriminatory.

"I think he's going to take apart a lot of the things that have been helpful for people that have been excluded too long, and I'm fearful that there will be more of that coming up."

Steven Gabriel, of Enfield, said he was "disappointed" with the direction the country has gone.

"I just feel like everything's going to be going back," he said. "Even if Hillary won, I feel like it would have been set back a little bit."

Still, he said, "I'm hopeful that everything works out in the end and that this country doesn't go down the toilet."

Affordable health care, immigration and student debt are issues Gabriel hopes Trump will tackle during his tenure.

In Milford

It is a misnomer, Jeanne Cervin said, to call the noon gathering on the steps of Milford City Hall an anti-Trump Rally.

No. The seven committed, active, outspoken women who began Milford Speaks Out some time ago, simply and forcefully, on the day of Donald J. Trump's inauguration and the great women's march in Washington, to reaffirm core democratic values – of the small "d" variety.

Those, she said, are the equal rights, freedoms, ideas, and an attitude of tolerance that distinguish America, and that thoughtful people of any political affiliation can rally around.

Friday is also the perfect day, Cervin said, to begin a new chapter of expansion for the group, to seek a link with the national activism organization Move On, and to invite "like-minded" Milford residents of all types to join in.

Everyone is at Ground Zero today, said Cervin, an environmentalist and former planning and zoning board member, and no one can predict exactly where a Trump presidency will take us.

"We've had enough markers to be concerned about some dangers ahead," Cervin said. "So it is going to take vigilance – but also an open mind. We do not want to make our effort partisan in any way. Democrat, Republican, non-affiliated – we want all to join as we set about to reaffirm, every day, the core values of our democracy."

The hosts are hoping for a rousing gathering outside city hall at noon.

At the Milford rally, Alderman Frank

J. Smith said a Democratic colleague gave him some heat for his plan to show up Friday at a gathering to support environmental protection, equal rights for women and tolerance.

"He asked, 'Why are you doing this? The election's over.' Hilary Clinton narrowly won in Milford, and politically, the thinking is you don't want to alienate Trump supporters.

"But the ideals that the Democratic Party supports are being expressed here," Smith said.

He says he personally agrees with President Trump on the need to repair the infrastructure and create manufacturing jobs. He said Trump may be in conflict with congressional Republicans on some trade policies.

"So it is hard to say how his administration is going to affect us locally," Smith continued. "I happen to believe our institutions are stronger than any one person – and we will survive."

The Enfield Senior Center

At the Enfield Senior Center several residents were sitting at tables in the cafeteria with inauguration coverage broadcasting on the television in the corner.

Ruth Seidel said she was excited about the inauguration and called it historic

"I think we have to give him a chance," Seidel said.

Seidel said she's not worried about a Trump presidency and that she would like to see him get health care straightened out.

She also said she didn't like the way some of his opponents were behaving.

"It's disgusting. We weren't that crazy about the last president but you didn't see us blocking roads and burning flags," she said.

At the Bloomfield Senior Center a half dozen residents were watching the inauguration in the lunchroom.

Peg Harris, a volunteer, who was preparing to serve lunch, said that to her watching inaugurations is witnessing history, regardless of who is entering office.

"It's good to see an old president welcoming in a new one," Hatia said.

Asked how she felt about the next four years, Hatia said she was "not worried at all. I'm confident. It was time for a change." First of all we need to give him a chance."

Sitting nearby Alex Moore, echoed Hatia's sentiment.

"I say give him a chance and we'll pray for him," Moore said.

The Olympia Diner, Newington

Paul Lamothe of Newington, said he's seen his share of elections and inaugurations over the years and said no matter what, the "President is the president."

"I think we need to support him. But also hold him to a high standard," he said between bites of scrambled eggs. "I think Trump has a lot to prove and a lot of minds to change. Time will tell."

"This is the finest hour," said Roy Perkins of Moodus. "He will be the greatest President since Lincoln and Washington. He's exactly what people need. He says what he's going to do and he does it. He's not a politician or a lawyer. We don't need them."

Perkins was at Hoffman's Gun Store with his brother Gary of Uncasville and stopped at Olympia Diner, a tradition the pair has had for years.

"And he's a big fan of the second amendment. I think this country will be safer," Roy said.

The brothers were hopeful Trump would talk about Obamacare – the pair conceded there were some good parts to it. They also hoped he would talk about ISIS, Russia and the wall between Mexico and the United States.

"I hope he builds it. Hell, I'll even buy a brick," Roy said.

Next door, Dave Labroke of East Haddam was washing his truck at a Mr. Sparkle car wash in Newington. He said he is an independent who is "hopeful for change – real change."

Labroke said he "works in America and buys American," but noted it is sometimes difficult. He said Trump has a "tough job" and missed his chance to win people over.

"I think he was so brash that if he toned it down a little earlier there would be more support for him. Now there is one camp or another. I don't think he knows just how tough this will be to get his agenda done.

In West Hartford

In a town that largely supported Clinton on Election Day, there was still support for the president-elect. Douglas O'Neil, originally from Kentucky but a West Hartford resident for the last two years, said he felt fine about a Trump presidency and that "it was a long time coming with the way the system was going."

Not all felt that way, however.

Larry Vogel, a longtime West Hartford resident, said he thinks a Trump presidency will be "terrible" for the country.

"He's an embarrassment to our country," Vogel said. "He's a vulgar, self-centered, vindictive demagogue."

Jessica Colliton, a West Hartford resident the last 20 years, said she voted for Hilary Clinton and has "mixed emotions" about a Trump presidency. She said she'll watch the Inauguration because it's "a great for America and to watch the peaceful transfer of power."

Colliton said she's hopeful Trump will support gay rights and she doesn't want him to "roll back" on healthcare – "if he wants to improve on it, that's fine."

Meg Felice said she's "beyond upset" but said she'll try to watch a few minutes of Trump's inauguration speech.

She said she likes the idea of focusing on infrastructure and improving the healthcare system instead of getting rid of it.

Amanda Wiley, walking two dogs in West Hartford Center Friday morning, said she's going to tune out news for the day.

"I get in a bad mood whenever I read about it," Wiley said.

Libby Wentworth, whose lived in West Hartford almost six years, said she's been trying not to think about it.

"I'm nervous about the fact that people seem so comfortable with the bigotry and racism," Wentworth said. "I'm hoping I'm wrong about Trump."

The Naugatuck River Valley

The TVs inside Shelton's Plaza Diner were tuned in to Inauguration Day coverage Friday morning.

Finishing his breakfast at the counter at the front of the restaurant, Trumbull native Tom Gallo said it was a "big day for America."

"I think no matter what your political beliefs are, (the inauguration is) here, it's now (and) we have to stand together and respect the office of the president," said Gallo, a registered independent. "Let's hope to God that he makes the right decisions and we have a united front and we push America forward."

"Together, let's try to make America great again," he added.

Trump received significant support in the Valley on Election Day, winning Shelton, Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, and Seymour, among other towns.

But not everyone is hopeful about a Trump presidency. At the end of the counter, Thomas Fardy of Stratford blasted Trump as an "egotistical maniac who's never done anything for anybody."

Fardy, who voted for Hillary Clinton, said he couldn't support Trump because of many of his stances, specifically immigration, foreign policy, and health care.

"I'm a big news guy," Fardy said. "I'm not going to watch anything for three days. I can't stand this guy."

In a booth at the Valley Diner along Route 34 in Derby, Walter Piechota of Orange was eating a bowl of fruit while watching Inauguration Day coverage on a nearby TV. He said he is cautiously optimistic about the next four years.

Piechota, a registered Republican who voted for Hillary Clinton, said while he is worried that Trump's abrasive personality will get in the way of his leadership, he believes his business experience will prove good for the country.

"I think he has an opportunity to bring some jobs back in and maybe stop the exodus of American industry," Piechota said.

Just after noon, Oxford's Republican First Selectman George Temple and Democratic Selectman Kathy Johnson met in Temple's office to watch Trump deliver his inaugural address.

"I think his message was loud and clear," Temple said of the address. "I liked the message that we're going to be pluralistic in our recovery."

Temple said while Trump was not his first choice for president, he is "optimistic in his approach," particularly in increasing business opportunities and creating jobs.

In Bristol

Outside Price Chopper, Bristol resident David Nolan said he doesn't follow policy discussions closely, but thinks Trump deserves the opportunity to prove what he can do for the country.

"I really believe he should be given a chance," Nolan said. "As a business man, I feel that he has done phenomenal things within his own empire and businesses. I feel that he will be able to jump start the economy because of what he's done."

Nolan said he is worried about the intended repeal of Affordable Care Act programs. He recently was able to get health insurance through Obamacare and hopes repeals are unsuccessful.

Trump won Bristol four years after the city voted to support Obama.

Gloria Coons of Bristol said she is hopeful for more job opportunities for the country and wage increases. She also said she hopes to see a crack down on gun violence and drug abuse.

"[Trump] is not run by the politicians. He's his own person. Hopefully he stays that way," Coons said. "I hope and pray things will be better in the next four years."

Robert Husted of Bristol said he is worried and hopeful about Trump's presidency.

"Looking at it from two different perspectives you've got a whole group of people who are terrified and you've got a group who are really excited," Husted said. "You can't judge the quality of the president until he's been the president."

At Union Station In New Haven

New Haven's Union Station was full of bustle, as is expected on a Friday morning.

But the usual throngs of commuters heading to Manhattan were supplemented by long-haul travelers heading to Washington, some sporting pink "pussy hats," the knit, cat-like caps made for Saturday's Women's March.

Maria Leveton sat quietly on a bench, engrossed in her copy of the New York Times.

"They said he arrived more humble," the Hamden resident said of Trump. "Maybe he's realizing that this is a serious, incredible position as commander in chief. Maybe now he'll realize he has to stop the reality-star show."

Leveton was also bound for the nation's capital, but planned to ignore the inauguration. "I won't look at my phone; I won't listen to the radio," she said.

She's more focused on the march, which she's attending with her daughter and some family friends.

Connecticut In Washington D.C.

State Rep. Tony D'Amelio of Waterbury was an early and eager Trump backer. On Friday, he sat on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol waiting to watch Trump to take the oath of office.

"It's really an amazing moment," D'Amelio said just before 8:30 a.m. He arrived early due to heightened security.

"There's a a real feeling of excitement," the Republican lawmaker said. A light drizzle was beginning to fall but D'Amelio and the other spectators had no umbrellas – security rules prohibit them. "We all have ponchos," he said.

D'Amelio said he is hoping to hear a message of unity from Trump.

"I know a lot of people didn't support him," D'Amelio said. "I didn't support Barack Obama but when he became president, he became my president. I hope people will stand by Donald Trump as well."

Courant staff writers Vinny Vella, Jenna Carlesso, Vanessa de la Torre, Steve Goode Jordan Otero Sisson, Ken Byron, Shawn Beals, Daniela Altimari, Josh Kovner, Peter Marteka, Mikaela Porter, Gregory B. Hladky, and Christopher Keating contributed to this report.

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