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Vice President Pence surprises crowd at pro-Trump rally in Charleston

Vice President Mike Pence makes an unannounced visit outside the West Virginia Capitol Saturday after his scheduled stop in Scott Depot. By Bishop Nash/The Herald-Dispatch

By Bishop Nash

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Even in making an unannounced visit outside the West Virginia Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence counted on a flood of support anywhere he stopped in the Mountain State.

West Virginia, he pointed out, voted 68 percent for President Donald Trump, the second highest percentage of any state, behind only Wyoming.

West Virginia, he pointed out, voted 68 percent for President Donald Trump, the second highest percentage of any state, behind only Wyoming.

After a scheduled visit to Foster Supply Inc. in Scott Depot, West Virginia, Pence surprised the crowd at a pro-Trump rally Saturday afternoon at the Capitol complex.

“I just happened to be in town and just had to stop by and say thank you, West Virginia, for making Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States of America,” Pence exclaimed to a chorus of cheers from the star-spangled crowd.

“Thanks to you all in West Virginia, we have elected a man for president who never quits, who never backs down. He is a fighter. He is a winner, and I’ve got to tell you: From day one in the Oval Office, he’s been fighting for the American people and fighting to keep the promises that he’s made to the people of West Virginia.”

Pence reaffirmed the administration’s commitments to reinforce law enforcement and bolster veterans affairs while promising to cut taxes for the middle class and roll back business regulations, particularly those enforced on the coal industry.

“The war on coal is over,” Pence said, “because Trump digs coal.”

Pence’s roughly 15-minute address was at one point interrupted by a small child as he innocuously scampered through the barricade. Secret Service agents gently scooped up the boy to a round of laughs.

“I love his enthusiasm,” Pence quipped.

Tying off the appearance by quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14, Pence called on Trump supporters to stay engaged, be vocal in their support and, if they’re inclined, to pray for the nation and its leadership.

“Together, with your help and with God’s help, we’ll make America great again,” Pence said before leaving the podium to greet the public.

Scheduled weeks ago with no intention of the vice president’s arrival, the rally was organized to show support for the Trump administration and its policies in the wake of nationwide dissent.

“There is that silent majority, and if people see that we still care, they’re going to know we’re still here,” said Jennifer Perdue, who organized the rally as part of the National MAGA (Make America Great Again) March network. Similar rallies took place across the country Saturday, and Perdue acknowledged the novelty of a support rally for a sitting president, but added that little about the 2016 election was normal.

Although living far closer to Washington, D.C., than Charleston, David Harty made the five-hour trip from his home in Jefferson County to participate in the rally, explaining that he wanted to support the Trump movement in his own state.

“I feel like the news media does not make an accurate or fair portrayal (of Trump supporters) in general,” Harty said, noting his admiration of Trump’s vocal criticism of multiple news outlets. “CNN has the right to say whatever they want, and that’s free speech, but I feel like all the news organizations are singing from the same sheet of music.”

As the rally marched from University of Charleston Stadium to the Capitol complex, Eric Tong waved a large banner bearing the Trump logo and sported a U.S. Border Patrol baseball cap. Tong, a 32-year-old Taiwanese-American from Sissonville, West Virginia, also blamed the mainstream media for presenting Trump and his supporters in a biased fashion.

“I wish people would give Trump a chance instead of just attacking everything he does,” Tong said, “because I’ve been more optimistic about the country’s future than I have in the past 10 years.”

Although images of an America made great again tend to conjure images of the 1960s through 1980s for baby boomers and Generation X, 18-year-old Caiden Cowger wasn’t alive to experience those days. The independent conservative radio host from Buckhannon, West Virginia, described the “Make America Great Again” mantra, as it applies to millennial supporters, as a call for a brighter future.

“I’m part of the generation that’s just now starting to enter the workforce,” Cowger said. “So to consider all that, we are really looking at what we want our futures to be and what will bring us the most success in our future.”

The rally encountered no counter-protests and continued through the vice president’s departure peacefully and without incident.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

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