Protests, no-shows, and a Baby Trump blimp greet the president in two grief-stricken cities

Doug Stanglin and Trevor Hughes

The notorious, orange-haired Baby Trump blimp, surrounded by sign-waving demonstrators, greeted President Donald Trump Wednesday during his visit to a Dayton hospital in the wake of a devastating weekend shooting.

It took only 24 hours for two organizers to raise more than $3,000 to bring the protest blimp to Miami Valley Hospital.

As the president headed to two grief-stricken cities — Dayton and El Paso — to meet the victims of a pair of weekend mass shootings that left 31 dead — a distinct mood of protest landed alongside Air Force One.

In Dayton, the diapered caricature of the president that has appeared in anti-Trump events from London to Texas, carried a sign saying, "Stop being a baby. Stand up to the NRA!"

Protesters carried placards that included "Do Something," "Just say No to Fascism," and "Protect kids, not guns."

Carina Dani and Megan Baxter organized the GoFundMe blimp campaign "so we can get Baby Trump and give our President the welcome he deserves." Additional funds were earmarked for victims of the shooting.

Demonstrators outside of the Dayton City Hall protest a planned visit of President Donald Trump on August 06, 2019 in Dayton, Ohio. Trump was scheduled to visit the city on Wednesday as residents recover from Sunday Morning's mass shooting in the Oregon District.

In El Paso, site of the other weekend mass shooting, the tone of a planned protest rally was set by the area's member of congress, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D- Texas, who refused to meet with Trump until he called her first to discuss the tragedy. The White House declined.

Mayor Dee Margo said he would show up for the Trump visit to honor the office of president, not the occupant.

Instead of meeting the president, Escobar planned to join with the Border Network for Human Rights and Women's March El Paso at a protest rally near the University Medical Center, where Trump was expected to meet with survivors of Saturday's shooting.

Demonstrators gather to protest the arrival of President Donald Trump outside Miami Valley Hospital after a weekend mass shooting that occurred in the Oregon District, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, in Dayton. Twenty-four-year-old Connor Betts open

Within hours, hundreds of people signed an online petition posted by medical workers at UMC. “Given President Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, we believe that a visit to our medical campus will be harmful for both the families affected and medical teams caring for those families,” it said.

Lisa Moore, an obstetrician with privileges at two area hospitals, said she signed the petition because she worries the president has “created an environment of fear,” especially for her Hispanic colleagues, in the wake of a shooting that specifically targeted people of Hispanic descent.

The protest mood facing the president was echoed by a Facebook posting from Cassandra Hernandez, the city council member representing the neighborhood where the shooting occurred. It was directed at Trump, saying he was not welcome "because you have dehumanized Hispanics and immigrants."

Rene Romo, 49, notes the president's comments about an “invasion” of immigrants encouraged the shooter sparked strong reactions from many in the community.

“It’s a touchy subject, with the city divided over whether he should come,” said Romo, as he watched memorial candles and balloons flutter in the morning wind outside the Walmart where the Saturday shooting occurred. “There is still a lot of anger in the victims over his words and whether his words inspired this man.”

Romo said he wants to see the president apologize, to say “I’m sorry” that his words contributed to the country’s divisions. “But we all know this president never apologizes,” said Romo, who is retired.

In Dayton, about 50 protesters gathered outside city hall Tuesday to chant "do something!" and to call on Mayor Nan Whaley to tell the president not to visit the city.

“The city needs to heal right now. We are so stressed,” said one of the protesters, Megan Fiely, the Dayton Daily News reported. “We’re not a photo opportunity for Trump.”

Whaley said she would greet the president, but added that his “rhetoric has been painful for many in our community and I think people should stand up and say they are not happy if they are not happy he’s coming.”

Trevor Hughes reported from El Paso

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump protests: El Paso, Dayton shattered by shootings