Benedict College is hosting the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at the fine arts theater starting Friday and running through Sunday. Photo: Caroline Cherry

Organizers of an anti-Trump protest plan to fill the streets around Benedict College with “Trump cry baby” balloons Friday ahead of the president’s afternoon visit to the historically black college.

“Of course, young people are going to be loving those balloons,” said Elaine Cooper, a protest organizer and volunteer for the campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “We think it would be a great look.”

Trump supporters will also be out in force around Benedict College holding a sign-waving rally to welcome the president. South Carolina voters endorsed Trump overwhelmingly in 2016.

Trump is expected to arrive at 2:30 p.m. to Benedict College for a forum on criminal justice reform. Ten Democratic candidates will be in attendance through the weekend, including frontrunners former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. This will be Trump’s first visit to an HBCU.

Trump’s speech comes just after he tweeted that the impeachment inquiry undertaken by Democrats amounts to a lynching, a word that carries deep scars in the African American community. According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, between 1882 and 1930 the number of lynching victims in the South totaled 2,805, with 156 in South Carolina alone.

The Trump event is by ticket only but HBCU students can attend for free.

The event is hosted by the 20/20 Bipartisan Justice Center and candidates will present stances on criminal justice and “specific and articulable policy proposals with measurable results to be achieved by 2024,” according to the Eventbrite page. The event is co-hosted by Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin, the National Black Police Association, the African American Mayors Association, the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

In addition to Biden, Sanders and Warren, candidates who plan to attend include U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, former HUD secretary Julián Castro, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., U.S. Sen, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Ahead of the weekend, Columbia Police Department is working with the Secret Service on security.

“Commuters should expect short time road closures while the Presidential motorcade travels through the City of Columbia to its final destination,” Jennifer Timmons, Columbia Police Department public information officer, said in an email. “Due to security measures, we are limited in divulging specific road closures.”

Timmons also said Columbia residents should allow additional travel time and have patience during traffic delays.

At 12:30 p.m., protesters can pick up a free balloon from outside Sanders’ South Carolina office at 1410 Blanding St, according to Cooper. The balloon resembles the giant Trump cry baby blimp that protesters have used in international settings to castigates the president’s policies. The blimp features an adult Trump superimposed on a baby’s diapered body.

At 1 p.m., the group will move to the next rallying point, Booker’s South Carolina campaign office, at 2361 Taylor St. At Booker’s campaign office, protesters will be able to register to vote, according to Perry Bradley, a protest organizer from Building Better Communities.

The BBC is organizing the anti-Trump protest along with 350 Columbia, part of the nonprofit that is fighting for climate justice and the end of fossil fuel use and the campaign of congressional candidate Lawrence Nathaniel. Bradley said Nathaniel is requesting a permit from the city for the protest.

Then the group will move on to its protest march around Benedict College at 2:30 p.m., according to Cooper.

Benedict College was founded in 1870 after the Civil War on the site of an 80-acre plantation.  Bathsheba A. Benedict, serving with the Baptist Home Mission Society, bought the property with the intention of educating newly-freed slaves.  It is located across the street from another private HBCU, Allen University, which is operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.


An anti-Trump protest is planned for Friday starting at 12:30 p.m. outside of the Sen. Bernie Sanders South Carolina campaign office located on Blanding Street in Columbia. Photo: Kenna Coe

The protest will make a stop at Sen. Cory Booker’s campaign office on Taylor Street in Columbia where protesters can register to vote. Photo: Kenna Coe

A poster promoting the anti-Trump protest organized by 350 Columbia, Building Better Communities and other local organizations.