Politics & Government

Group gathers to welcome, protest Ivanka Trump, Tim Cook visit to Wilder school

A group gathered outside of a small Idaho town’s elementary school under gray skies on Tuesday.

One one side, Latino rights advocates led by Melissa Morales — megaphone in hand — spoke in opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

“Don’t gas babies!” they chanted, referencing Trump’s decision to close the United State’s busiest port of entry at the Mexican-U.S. border and use tear gas among those gathering there.

On the other side, a group with signs and American flags welcomed Ivanka Trump and Apple CEO Tim Cook to Wilder.

“We love Trump!” they chanted back.

Then they began yelling at each other in the middle of A Avenue — a tangible example of the growing polarity of American politics tearing at the fabric of our nation.

Two groups disagree

Morales, a member of PODER of Idaho, said she viewed Trump and Cook’s tour, to learn more about the school’s emphasis on technology, as a publicity stunt. PODER of Idaho is an advocacy group for undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients, and some Wilder parents contacted Morales for help organizing the demonstration.

“Wherever these acts of racial aggression appear, we will also be there to interrupt these harmful narratives,” she said.

She said she felt that Ivanka Trump only visited Wilder, a school district with a large Latino population, to use the students as a positive spin for her father’s presidential administration.

“The mere presence of Ivanka Trump in a place like Wilder is completely disgusting and infuriating,” Morales said. “Whether she likes it or not she is representative of this administration.”

Not all who gathered near the school agreed.

A handful of people cheered in support of Ivanka Trump and said they wanted to show their love for the president, including former Republican state Rep. Gayle Batt.

Batt held a sign that said “Apple and Trump making America Great Again” and another that said “83676 (hearts) Trump.”

“We support the visit and wanted to say thank you to our president,” Batt told the Statesman outside the school.

But Morales said the administration’s “acts of brutality and harm,” including Trump’s policy earlier this year of separating families at the border, are unacceptable.

Another Wilder resident, Julio Elizondo, agreed with that sentiment.

“I see her trying to get positive press regarding her dad’s horrible press (after) tear gassing the children and the migrant children who are trying to cross over and seek asylum,” said Elizondo about Ivanka Trump’s visit. “What a coincidence. One day they’re tear gassing brown babies, and the next day they’re praising brown babies.”

After Ivanka Trump’s vehicle arrived at the school, protestors started chanting in Spanish: “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido,” which in English means, “a united people will never be defeated.”

At least two counterprotesters, in response to the protesters’ use of the Spanish language, made comments such as “Go back to Mexico.”

Kathy Griesmyer, policy director of the ACLU of Idaho, attended the protest to help support Wilder families.

“The irony is not lost on us that the president’s daughter would be here at a predominately Latinx elementary school while her father is tear gassing women and children and pregnant women at the border, and so there is certainly a disconnect there between the message of the visit and the administration’s policies,” Griesmyer told the Statesman at the protest.

Cindy Foster, of Wilder, held a pink “Women for Trump” sign outside the school on Tuesday.

“I just want to be positive,” Foster told the Statesman about Ivanka Trump’s visit. “I’m here to support her.”

Some protested technology in the classroom

Some protesters took issue with the Wilder School District’s use of iPads in the classroom. They said they don’t believe the tablets truly help young students learn.

Michelle DeLaportilla, of Wilder, said she sends her own daughter to the Caldwell School District. She said she believes it to be a better school — though she noted the teachers there are also overworked.

“Students are falling behind, and I think it’s just an incredibly audacious thing for them to do,” she said.

Several high school students also walked out of school on Tuesday, saying that they aren’t getting the support that they need from the school with the Apple products.

Nadia Amick, 15, is a sophomore at the high school and said she walked out because she was frustrated with the lack of programs available in the school district with the use of the iPads. She held a protest sign listing what she said were the district’s low proficiency and literacy rates.

“I want our teachers to teach again,” Nadia said.

Another student who walked out was Mayra Perez, 17. She said she doesn’t think the iPads are helping, noting that one of her nephews went to a Caldwell school, instead of Wilder, because he wasn’t learning.

“My nephew didn’t even know how to read when he left here, and I assume in first grade he should know how to read some words,” Mayra said. “He was learning kindergarten words when he moved to Caldwell, so I just think the iPads aren’t helping at all.”

Cindy Denny has two children who attend Wilder High School, including her 16-year-old son, Thomas, who came to protest with her. She said she doesn’t support the Apple products being used they way they are.

“iPads are being used as a replacement for teachers,” Denny said.

Denny said she is a Trump supporter, but does not support the way the district has used the technology.

“They need teachers, not babysitters,” Denny said.