Facing a wall of law enforcement officers, hundreds of protesters lined Koenig Lane as President Donald Trump’s motorcade drove past on its way to meet Gov. Greg Abbott for a briefing on damage from Hurricane Harvey.
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flew to Austin on Tuesday afternoon to meet state leaders and tour the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Operations Center following a visit to Corpus Christi earlier in the day to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and show his support.
After Trump arrived, he toured the Emergency Operations Center, and then received a briefing regarding the damage caused by Harvey. During the briefing, he and his cabinet members discussed ways to accelerate Texas’ recovery from Harvey.
“It’s going to be a costly proposition,” Trump said in a press conference. “Probably there’s never been anything so expensive in our country’s history. Historic in terms of damage and in terms of ferocity as what we witnessed with Harvey.”
More than two hours before Trump’s arrival, protesters and supporters began to gather along Koenig Lane next to the Center and at its front entrance.
Sophomore John Roberts said he doesn’t necessarily support Trump, but he was there because he wants to support the president no matter what.
“It’s not often that you get a chance to see the president,” Roberts said. “It’s good that he’s showing support for the victims. It’s a horrific event, but it’s good that he’s out here supporting Texans, doing his best to support the country in a time of need.”
Leading up to Trump’s arrival, the crowd steadily grew from a few dozen to several hundred. They gathered directly in front of the Emergency Operations Center at the intersection of Koenig Lane and Guadalupe Street, the south side of the complex near where the president entered.
Freshman English major Madeleine Gonzalez said she appreciated Trump’s visit to her hometown of Corpus Christi, but she felt like his trip to Austin was used to capitalize on a chance to improve low approval ratings.
“Even though he’s out there because of the tragedy that happened, we don’t need him exploiting this tragedy for his own ratings,” Gonzalez said.
While in Corpus Christi, Gov. Greg Abbott praised Trump’s decision to not go to Houston during his visit to Texas because city officials need to focus their energy on rescuing people and saving lives.
“He was very smart and strategic not to go to Houston right now,” Abbott said. “He’s able to come and listen to local officials and hear firsthand what their needs are and learn how he needs to be responsive to the challenges that Texans are facing.”
During the meeting between Trump and his cabinet members, Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said they already began home loan approvals for damage caused by Harvey. She said the SBA also plans to authorize loans for businesses and people who have lost either income or property.
Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, said in a press conference they are focusing on a “smooth transition” from “the phase of rescue and reaction to a phase of recovery”. He also said the federal government is assisting state and local governments in reallocating federal assets to disaster relief.
“I want everybody to know that we’re in this for the long run,” Carson said. “We know that once the water recedes, that’s when our work really begins.”