BANGOR, Maine — President Donald Trump landed in Bangor on Friday afternoon ahead of a planned visit later in the day to a Piscataquis County town where he will address workers at a medical swab manufacturer.
The visit comes at a crucial intersection for the Republican’s presidency. The coronavirus outbreak has killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. and the Maine trip was Trump’s first out of Washington, D.C., since anti-racism rallies began to rage nationwide over police killings.
Former Gov. Paul LePage, who is the honorary Maine chairman for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, was at Bangor International Airport to greet the president when he landed on Air Force One at Bangor International Airport around 2 p.m. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who is a top target of Democrats in the November election, stayed in Washington, D.C. Close to a thousand anti-Trump protesters gathered in a shuttle lot at the airport.
Trump deplanes in Bangor, where he’s greeted by former Gov. LePage pic.twitter.com/DmaE5lo8Mx
— Jessica Piper (@jsscppr) June 5, 2020
In Bangor, Trump was expected to sign a proclamation aiming to open a Gulf of Maine national monument to commercial fishing. He will then go to Guilford for a tour and remarks at Puritan Medical Products, a top worldwide manufacturer of swabs needed to test for the coronavirus. It recently expanded using $75.5 million under the federal Defense Production Act.
“More jobs in the factories of Maine, more opportunities for Maine commercial fishermen,” said Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro said on a Thursday call with reporters. “That’s the message this president will be bringing to the great state of Maine tomorrow.”
The Maine seafood industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak due to declining sales to restaurants as well as shocks to international markets like China and Italy. But the global pandemic was just the latest in a series of challenges for the state’s fisherman.
The lobster industry lost out big last summer after retaliatory tariffs amid Trump’s trade war led China to buy lobsters from Canada instead of Maine. Lobster became eligible for a tariff exemption in February. Lobstermen have also taken issue with proposed federal regulations aiming to protect right whales that they say are unnecessary and costly.
Maine is also a key campaign spot for Trump, who won a single electoral vote from the more conservative 2nd District in 2016, the first time since 1988 that either district had voted Republican.
He is making a play to win it again over former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who criticized Trump in a Friday statement to Maine outlets, saying the president has bungled the virus response and that Mainers have the opportunity in the 2020 election to “fill the vacuum of leadership at the White House.”
Trump supporters and a smaller number of protesters gathered early in the day in Guilford. Many of the anti-Trump demonstrators in Bangor held Black Lives Matter signs to protest against Trump’s arrival in Maine and his divisive politics.
Minutes after Air Force One landed at Bangor, protesters spilled out of the airport shuttle lot into the streets, walking toward the airport. Hundreds of protesters holding signs, chanting, flooded the roundabout that leads to the airport entrance. A Bangor police cruiser showed up soon after, but protesters crowded around it, not letting police officers pass.
About half a dozen protesters tried to keep the crowd off the streets and when that failed, blocked the police from the rest of the crowd.
Eventually, Bangor police were joined by Maine State Police and Border Patrol officers, whose cars had also been blocked by the crowd.
As protesters formed a tightly packed group on the lawn next to the roundabout and kneeled in front of the police, officers in riot gear stood facing them.
The tension was broken when Trump left Bangor for Guilford, as the crowd bypassed the police to run toward the airport cheering at the departing helicopters.