Throngs of people surged onto a sleepy post-spring-semester Fresno State campus Monday to watch former President Bill Clinton speak on behalf of his wife, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
The former president’s star power was on display as hundreds crammed into the Satellite Student Union, and hundreds more were left to listen to his speech outside on a PA system.
A massive line – about the length of the campus, at its height – was brimming with excitement as people waited to get inside. Those who made it inside swooned every time they thought Clinton was about to take the stage, only to sag when they realized another speaker was moving toward the mic.
Donna Hudson stood about 100 people back in the line to get into the event. She and her friends are proud Hillary supporters, but Hudson had another reason for coming.
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“I’m excited to see the former president. Who is gorgeous, by the way,” she said with a laugh.
Most of the 1,000 or so people who came out appeared to be Hillary Clinton supporters like Hudson. But the former president’s visit also attracted a smattering of protesters, either in support of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders, or the Republican’s presumptive nominee Donald Trump. At one point, as Bill Clinton was leaving the campus, Hillary Clinton supporters and Trump supporters got into a short-lived shouting match.
I’m excited to see the former president. Who is gorgeous, by the way.
Donna Hudson, a Hillary Clinton supporter who came to see the former president
Hudson supports Hillary Clinton because “she’s fought hard for women and African-Americans.” She believes Clinton is the most qualified candidate by far. Hudson noted the candidate has served as secretary of state and worked on a plan for universal health care.
“I’m also playing the ‘woman card,’ to quote Trump,” Hudson said. “And proud of it.”
The crowd was mostly made up of women, African-Americans, Latinos and college students. While many were outright supporters of Hillary Clinton, some in Sanders’ camp were curious about the Democratic frontrunner.
Patrick Forrest is a Sanders supporter, but he’s also a pragmatist.
“With the logic that Hillary will probably be the nominee, it is time to figure out what her deal is,” Forrest said.
This will be the 22-year-old’s second presidential election. He voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, and said it was “a very easy decision.”
He’s not sure this election will be as simple.
With the logic that Hillary (Clinton) will probably be the nominee, it is time to figure out what her deal is.
Patrick Forrest, a Bernie Sanders supporter
Alicia Kong held a spot for her daughter near the back of the line.
“She loves politics,” Kong said. “Her whole life is politics.”
Her daughter, Cayley, is student body president at University High School and last summer attended Girls State, a summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by The American Legion. The 18-year-old received special permission to leave class for the former president’s speech.
The Kongs were among the 20 or so supporters standing on stage during Clinton’s speech.
Her mother said Cayley will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall to study public policy, adding: “She will work in the White House soon.”
During the speech, a group of people protested peacefully in support of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
A handful of pro-Trump or anti-Clinton protestors was also there, and some got into a minor dust-up with the waves of attendees as they left the building. One man shouted about Monica Lewinsky. Several shouted that Hillary Clinton should be put in prison for her alleged role in a Benghazi cover-up.
Several of the Clinton supporters got into a shouting match with this outspoken group. A few got close enough to touch one another, but it appeared to remain a verbal dispute. Within minutes, the Clinton supporters had drowned out the others as Bill Clinton made a quick exit to his motorcade just outside the student union.
Some of the Sanders supporters engaged in a civil debate with men and women holding Clinton campaign signs.
Doris Younge sat in her wheelchair holding a sign that read: “Fres-yes to Hillary!” as she waited for Bill Clinton to emerge after his speech.
Younge said he was “very inspiring” when speaking about his wife, whom she believes has “tremendous ideas and experience.”
“I couldn’t hear half the time because so many people were screaming (during Clinton’s speech),” she said.
Anthony Juarez said he got to shake the former president’s hand after his speech.
“His handshake was really warm, and he said ‘hey’ as he passed,” Juarez said. “He’s just fantastic. He unites everyone before sending them away.”
“We’re all one here,” Juarez added.