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Iowans, Latinos Try to Stop Trump Rally With Schools' Anti-Bullying Policy

by Suzanne Gamboa /

The handling of immigration protesters at a weekend event held by GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump has some Sioux City, Iowa residents and activists increasing their demand that the school district invoke its anti-bullying policy to stop his next rally.

Students and residents are circulating a petition to prevent Trump from holding the rally Tuesday evening at West High School campus, which Trump has leased for the after-school hours event.

"I was informed Trump was going to go to West High. I got worried. I’m worried about the safety of my community," said Francisco Valadez, a West High School graduate who started the online petition calling for the enforcement of the school's anti-bullying policy.

The online petition had 1,326 signatures Monday. The goal was 2,000.

West High was the location for scenes for the documentary “Bully,” an award-winning film about bullying in schools. The school district is considered to have a leading national anti-bullying policy.

Paul Gausman, superintendent of the Sioux City Community School District, said school board policy requires that school district facilities are intended to be community facilities. He said Trump’s campaign contacted the district to lease the high school campus, which it was only allowed to do after school hours and after the campus had been emptied of those who wanted to leave.

Gausman said he hadn’t read the petition against Trump’s appearance in great detail and had only communicated with students through Twitter. He said the school district doesn’t take sides and it’s not uncommon for facilities to be requested by candidates. Other candidates have also done events from the campus.

“If any other candidate had called, they would have had the room first,” he said.

The Iowa rally follows a rally held in Miami that turned turbulent when, immigration protesters interrupted Trump’s speech with rounds of chants and by holding up signs that said “Respect” and “Equality.”

Video was captured of Ariel Rojas, a Florida International University student, falling to the carpeted floor as he was being dragged backwards by his shirt collar from the rally. The man dragging him appeared to kick the young protester after he fell.

“There’s nothing that separates you from thousands of other supporters who really, really hate you,” Rojas said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

He said he wasn’t badly hurt, though he had some soreness in his neck. Unlike other protesters he was escorted out immediately. Thomas Kennedy, an activist with United Families and an FIU student as well, said he was detained and made to turn over his documents.

“I was put in a chokehold. Several girls were punched. I was punched. They dragged me out by my shoulder. They put me in a room, took my documents and took pictures of me,” Kennedy said. He said his father participated in the protest and he was scared for him because his father does not have legal permission to be in the U.S. He said it was Trump's security who detained him and police had "rescued" him.

Kennedy said he and others were trying to identify the man in the video who dragged and kicked Rojas. Charges had not been filed but charges were being considered, depending on what they could prove, he said.

In an email, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the man in the video who dragged Rojas was “merely an attendee” not affiliated with the campaign or Doral, the Trump resort where it was held.

“The campaign does not condone this behavior,” Hicks said in the email.

But there were accusations that Trump’s own words and behavior encouraged the rough treatment of the activists, who made their protests in three separate groups, each one taking up after the other was stopped.

The Huffington Post reported that Trump told people they could remove the protesters, “but don’t hurt them.

“See the first group, I was nice: ‘Oh take your time. The second group I was pretty nice. The third group, I’ll be pretty more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say, ‘Get the hell out of here!” the Huffington Post quoted Trump saying.

Activists and immigration groups have asserted that Trump’s campaign rhetoric has been responsible for other violence.

Boston police said two men beat a homeless man while making anti-immigrant comments. Trump responded by saying his supporters are passionate but then later tweeted that he would never condone violence.

Protesters have demonstrated against other candidates and booed, but supporters' reaction "has never been close to physical," Kennedy said.

“There’s something about that man (Trump) that enables people, makes them feel justified to be physical with who they disagree with and who they hate,” Kennedy said.

Ismael Valedez, a Sioux City resident and organizer with Unity in Action, said there is some concern among parents about what could happen to those who show their opposition to Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

Valadez also said he has been hearing from high school students that some of the comments Donald Trump has made against immigrants are being said in the hallways of West High School.

Gausman, who had not seen the video from the Miami Trump rally, said he has been working with local police in advance of the rally. There will be a designated place for protesters outside the rally, he said.

NBC's Alexandra Vitali contributed to this report.

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