SIOUX CITY | Two relatives from the Sioux City metro area said they expect a large number of protesters to greet Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as he arrives Tuesday at West High School.
"We are getting a lot of community support," Ismael Valadez, of South Sioux City, said Friday.
Valadez and his nephew, Francisco Valadez, tried to force Trump to hold the campaign rally elsewhere. Starting Thursday, they gathered more than 1,000 signatures on a petition that called on the Sioux City school district to reverse its decision to let the billionaire businessman use the West gym.
The Valadezes contend the billionaire businessman and reality TV star should stay off school property because he has made comments that are hostile to immigrants.
On Friday, Sioux City school Superintendent Paul Gausman said he understands Trump's visit to the school is controversial but that having political rallies in schools is allowed under the district's facility use policy.
Gausman said the goal is to have events of broad interest in the community, and Trump is paying a rental fee for the school usage.
"This situation presents an opportunity for us to model for our students and community how to properly demonstrate the rights of free speech and the freedom of assembly, and the democratic process," Gausman said.
Still, the Valadezes want to make their displeasure known Tuesday. They planned a protest, and by Friday morning more than 800 people said on a Facebook account they plan to take part. Ismael Valadez said he envisions a "silent protest rally" on the school grounds when Trump speaks at 6 p.m. He said the goal will not be to get into a war of words with Trump supporters.
"Most schools are working hard to try to prevent bullying in their institutions," Ismael Valadez said.
"What kind of message is West High and the Sioux City Community School District sending, by giving a stage and a platform to a bully like Donald Trump?"
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Francisco Valadez is a 2012 West High graduate who lives in Sioux City.
In a statement, Gausman said several candidates have previously used schools for presidential campaign events. That includes 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin at West High, and eventual Democratic President Barack Obama at Irving Elementary School in 2007 and 2008.
"It is not unusual for a political candidate to request to use a Sioux City Community School District facility," Gausman said.
Ismael Valadez cited a recent Trump stop in Burlington, Iowa, for anti-immigrant remarks, in discussing Ford Motor Co. potentially building a plant in Mexico.
"I mean, the way our country is run, if it doesn't happen to be me that wins, you know what's going to happen? They're going to build a plant and illegals are going to drive those cars right over the border. ... And they'll probably end up stealing the cars," Trump said.
Trump had led the Republican field in Iowa in summer Quinnipiac University polls. But in the most recent Quinnipiac poll on Thursday, Trump slipped to second place with 20 percent, behind the 28 percent of retired surgeon Ben Carson.
Tuesday's rally at West High will be Trump's second event in Sioux City in 2015. The only other was in May at Morningside College, when he spoke to 200 people. The West High event will be set up to hold many more people.
Trump's communications team did not respond to a request for comment.
Hector Salamanca, advocacy chair with DREAM Iowa, said Trump should not speak in any Iowa school.
“What’s even more disturbing is the fact that a man like Donald Trump is being invited into a school with such a diverse student body as West High. The school is 44 percent minority and 29 percent Latino. Letting Trump roam these young people’s halls, spreading his vicious lies and hate, is deeply disturbing," Salamanca said.