BOLINGBROOK – Between 150 and 200 people were outside the Bolingbrook Golf Club on Wednesday for several hours – but they weren't waiting to hit the golf course.
Most of them were protesting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's private fundraising luncheon held at the club. Protesters and media were in a fenced-off area across from the facility. A sign on the club property said: "Closed to the public, private event."
Members of several groups – including local organization Suburban Families Against Hate and national group Fight for $15 – were near the club before 10 a.m., ahead of the 11:30 a.m. start time for the luncheon, which had entry prices ranging from $1,000 to $250,000.
There were no sightings of Trump's motorcade on Rodeo Drive – the main entryway to the club – and he wasn't clearly seen by the crowd outside. He likely entered from Kings Road to the east, which runs along a corn field.
Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar confirmed in a phone interview after the event that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani spoke to the crowd of about 300. He listed Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts and former Chicago Bear Dan Hampton as two other big names who attended. Claar said DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin also was there.
Before, during and after the luncheon, which ended at 1 p.m., several debates of varying volume took place between Trump supporters and protesters. Topics included immigration, the economy, Trump's comments about various groups of people and who had a right to stand where on the protest grounds.
Bolingbrook resident Ryan Wilder joined the protest from about 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wilder is a union machinist and an Air Force veteran, and has four nephews in the Marines. He said he came to protest because of Trump’s “divisive message.”
“I couldn’t let this go by,” Wilder said of Trump's visit to Bolingbrook. “His message is agitating and there’s no place for it.”
He took issue with Trump’s description of America, saying the candidate paints the country as a “dystopia.”
“The way he describes America, you’d swear we were in a 'Mad Max' movie,” he said.
Wilder said he doesn’t appreciate the way Trump has treated people who have either worked for, or with, the billionaire, and said Trump is anti-union.
Wilder and Army veteran Dan Clark, of Romeoville, have also been bothered by Trump’s comments about military veterans. Wilder objected to Trump’s July comments about the parents of a Muslim soldier who died in Iraq, which Trump made in response to the soldier's father's statement that Trump had “sacrificed nothing.” Trump then stated in a television interview that he had “made a lot of sacrifices” while highlighting his business accomplishments.
Clark recalled when Trump said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was “not a war hero.” McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
Though many veterans have been outspoken Trump supporters, Clark said those he knows do not support Trump.
Clark said he believes if elected, Trump would push to privatize the Department of Veterans Affairs system, and the move would be a disaster because a lot of new medicine comes out of the VA.
Mark Knutson, of the Will County Progressives, was dressed as a taco truck featuring a menu that included “tiny hand tacos” and a “tamale wall.”
Nicki Serbin, chairwoman for the group, who worked with Knutson on his costume, said it was inspired by a Donald Trump surrogate who warned Hillary Clinton winning the election would result in taco trucks on every corner. She said it was meant to be satirical and entertaining without being adversarial.
“This is kind of a stressful situation and we thought a little levity might be helpful,” Serbin said.
Trump supporters outnumbered
Though more supporters came to Trump's aid as the day wore on, protesters outnumbered supporters about four-to-one. One supporter, Chicago resident Brian Strainis, was waving an American flag and said he was there to support Trump and the police.
He said the demonstrations Wednesday had been peaceful, unlike the "mosh pit" in March when Trump came to Chicago for a rally that was canceled over security concerns after scuffles broke out between Trump supporters and protesters.
“It was a disgrace – that gives Chicago its name, Chi-Raq," he said.
Jim Bockelmann, of Villa Park, said he came to support Trump because he finds the candidate honest.
"Let’s give him a chance," he said.
Bolingbrook mayor criticized
During the luncheon, Suburban Families Against Hate led the charge against Claar's support of Trump. Claar was one of the hosts of Wednesday's event.
Norman Brown, a member of the organization, said the group will hold Claar accountable in the 2017 mayoral election for inviting Trump to a facility paid for by the tax dollars of a diverse community.
The Bolingbrook Golf Club broke ground in 1999 and opened in 2002, according to Herald-News archives. In March 2002, the Bolingbrook Village Board voted to approve a $72.7 million bond sale to refinance some of the village’s debt, and among other things, build an $18 million clubhouse, according to the newspaper’s archives.
Claar said people who criticize the use of the golf club for a Trump event are “not very bright." KemperSports has managed the golf course since it opened, according to the manger's website.
“[The village] doesn’t control who comes or goes," Claar said.
When asked about the protesters' signs and message that Trump and Claar are “two of a kind,” Claar replied that the protest leaders have been against him before and will be in the future.
Will County Board member Jacqueline Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, encouraged residents to sign a petition and organize the removal of Claar as mayor.
“For too long people in this community have been asleep and just expect Grandpa Claar to sprinkle some fairy dust over them," she said.
Claar said Traynere is a terrible public servant and has worked against him in every election. He said the Trump event gave protest leaders "a horse to ride” going into the spring 2017 election, in which he will seek a ninth term.
Bob Jaskiewicz, a former Bolingbrook Village Board candidate, told the crowd that Claar and his “board puppets” only “care about themselves and not the residents.”
Claar said he supported Jeb Bush in the primaries but switched to Trump when Bush dropped out. Claar said he believes Trump will get things done.
Claar said Trump “calls it like he sees it” but added he doesn’t agree with everything the nominee has said. Claar's interest in fixing a nation with $19 trillion in debt and crumbling infrastructure is the main reason he's supporting Trump.