Vice President Mike Pence came to Rosemont Friday to fire up conservative voters ahead of the midterm elections and voice support for Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and GOP members of the Illinois congressional delegation, while his opponents showed up to protest.
His half-hour keynote address, at an event hosted by a group tied to a pro-President Donald Trump political action committee, touched on many of the keystones of the administration’s agenda, including immigration policy, trade, tax cuts and Supreme Court appointments.
Almost immediately after Pence took the stage, protesters inside the Westin O’Hare grand ballroom made their presence known. In total, Pence’s speech was interrupted five times by protesters, who were escorted out of the building by police.
Each time, the crowd of about 600 chanted “USA! USA!”
One woman held a yellow flag that read, “Trump and Pence must go.”
When Pence began to praise U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, a man said, “Has anyone seen Peter Roskam? I haven’t seen him. Where is he?”
Tickets to the event, called “Tax Cuts to Put America First,” were free and available by registering on the website of America First Policies, the group connected to the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC.
“Thanks for coming out today. I’m really grateful for almost everybody that came,” Pence joked to the crowd. “I respect everybody that came. That’s what freedom sounds like.”
Inside the hotel lobby, attendees had to go through a Secret Service security checkpoint.
Don and Birgitt Peterson of Yorkville wore red USA softball-style jerseys with “Trump 45” on the back. They’ve regularly attended political events throughout the years, including appearances by President George W. Bush at Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University. They were in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention and at the University of Illinois-Chicago for the Trump rally that was canceled amid protests.
Rosemont authorities said no one was charged Friday, and they described the protest of some 100 people outside the hotel as peaceful.
Police, at the behest of the Secret Service, pushed protesters across River Road to the east sidewalk northeast of the hotel. Rosemont public safety officers used their bikes as crowd control. Pence’s caravan used a back entrance, avoiding the protesters.
“We are advocating getting rid of the Trump/Pence regime through persistent, persistent nonviolent protests,” said Tricey Morelli, spokesman for the Chicago chapter of Refuse Fascism.
Bensenville resident Tim Hickey said he joined the protest because he considers it his “civic responsibility.”
Earlier, Pence headlined a private fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam and other Republicans, but Roskam was absent because of his work in Washington, his spokeswoman Veronica Vera said.
Rosemont prepares for Pence’s visit Friday, possible protests