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Rowdy Libertarian Crowd Packs into D.C. Hilton for Trump's Speech at LNC

LP Chair: 'Let's just make room for delegates because those are the people you're trying to persuade right now, right?'

Rowdy Libertarian Crowd Packs into D.C. Hilton for Trump's Speech at LNC

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A vocal crowd of Libertarians and Trump supporters packed into a ballroom at the Libertarian National Convention (LNC) to see the former president speak on Saturday night.

Donald Trump's upcoming appearance represents the only time in recent political history when a leading presidential candidate spoke at the national convention of an opposing party.

Lines for access to see Trump speak began forming shortly after 5 p.m.

Hours before Trump's arrival to the stage, LP Chair Angela McArdle asked Trump supporters in attendance to "get along" and "come to an understanding and find areas of agreement, even if we don't agree to vote for the same person."

"I would also really appreciate if our delegates could have a seat where they can see the stage because they came thousands of miles to this and it's what was promised," she said. "So, if some of you could share some of your seating with them, it would be great. And then I don't have to come down there ... and like, get in a chair fight. I am the chair of the party but that is like so ugly. I don't want to fight with people or beg and plead."

McArdle continued: "Let's just make room for delegates because those are the people you're trying to persuade right now, right? Like, you're already sold. Our delegates are not sold, and President Trump is here to try to sell them and talk to their concerns. We just want to make sure they're heard."

"So, let's take like five or 10 minutes to try to sort it out so I don't have to have security get involved," she added. "First four rows plus tables. The tables have 'Reserved' signs on them, too."

Once Libertarian delegates filled the rows in front of the stage, they waved signs while chanting "Free Ross!"

Frequently through the weekend, calls to "Free [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange" were met with calls to "Free Ross," as well.

According to the website dedicated to Ross Ulbricht's release:

Ross Ulbricht is a peaceful first-time offender serving a double life sentence plus 40 years without parole for all non-violent charges associated with creating the Silk Road e-commerce website. He was a 26-year-old idealistic libertarian—passionate about free markets and privacy—when he made the site. Ross was not prosecuted for causing harm or bodily injury and no victim was named at trial. This is a sentence that shocks the conscience.

Timcast owner and CEO reported a source close to Trump said he would commute the sentence of Ulbricht to time served, and that an announcement is forthcoming.

Reactions to Trump’s appearance at the LNC have varied from support to disdain since the LP’s May 1 announcement.

“For 50 years, we’ve been trying to get our candidates on the main stage with major party POTUS candidates and we’ve finally succeeded in bringing one to our stage,” McArdle stated at the time. “We will do everything in our power to use this incredible opportunity to advance the message of liberty.”

She added that the former president would be given a list of the party’s top ten issues an a bid to make an impact of Trump’s past, and potentially future, policy decisions.

Joshua Smith, who threw his hat into the race to clinch the LP nomination for president, said he was unbothered by Trump’s appearance during a Friday interview.

“I know, it bothers a lot of people,” he told SCNR News. “But for me, look, Trump can reach our 700,000 voters on any mainstream media outlet anytime he wants to. We can't reach at all of his voters. Now we have the opportunity to have eyes on us.”

“And, you know, they get to see our nominating process, they get to see our presidential debate, they get to see all the things that we do as a part and hopefully ... I think it's beneficial for us. It doesn't bother me at all, I think we should invite everybody to the convention,” he added.

Smith, who is a father of seven kids, describes himself as “blue collar working-class.”

“I get up every morning, I put on work boots like a normal human being,” said the Iowa resident. “[I’m] the only presidential candidate in the entire United States of America that went to work yesterday morning before coming to the convention to try and get the [LP presidential] nomination.”

On Friday, Kendal Ludden, a CPA from Charleston, South Carolina, was walking around the International Ballroom with a clipboard trying to get enough signatures from delegates to qualify as a vice-presidential candidate.

When asked about Trump speaking at the convention, he said, “I love it. I'd love to talk to him and be his Vice President, I don't care.”

By contrast, Joshua Reed Eakle, chair and co-founder of the political action committee (PAC) Project Liberal, told SCNR that inviting Trump was “an incredibly bad decision.”

“I think it is unprecedented to invite a opposition candidate into your own party's convention,” he said during an interview at the LNC. “Now you're using party resources, party money, and your party platform to feature the opposition.”

Eakle continued:

I think it's going to characterize the libertarian movement as a authoritarian adjacent movement. I think Trump is objectively an authoritarian in rhetoric, in the way that he's running his campaign and in the way that he governed as president. And so I think it's gonna cause long term brand damage for the Libertarian Party and it's gonna align us with basically an ideology, MAGA, which is a completely out of step with the most very basic principles of libertarianism, like free trade, immigration reform, fiscal responsibility, fighting gun control, you know, in so many different ways.

Eakle is not alone.

Following the announcement, the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, which is known for its radical messaging, referred to Trump as a "far-left gun-grabbing money-printing pro-lockdown socialist."

During closing remarks of the presidential nominee debate, tech entrepreneur Lars Mapstead asked, “Do we reject Donald Trump and everything he stands for?” A sizable portion of the room, which held at least a thousand people, cheered in response.

On Friday, one delegate took to the microphone to “propose that we go tell Donald Trump to go f--- himself” — a comment that received a smattering of applause.

After comedian and podcaster Dave Smith made remarks during a Saturday luncheon about the state of the LP, an audience member asked him to implore the audience to not be combative with Trump during his speech.

“Just keep in mind, as I've learned over the last few years, telling libertarians what to do doesn't work very well,” Smith replied, comparing the task to “herding rabies infested cats. Like if you even try, they're gonna claw [your] face off.”

He went on to suggest that the audience should avoid heckling and being rude.

“You should appreciate that he's here and that he's talking to us and we should be respectful,” Smith said. “I will say though, I do feel like if he says something that you think is great, you can applaud for that. And I do think if he says something you disagree with you can boo at that. I think there's no problem [with] that.”

He mentioned how on the previous night, the audience behaved in a similarly respectful manner during a debate Smith hosted between entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and potential LP vice-presidential candidate Clint Russell.

“[Ramaswamy] got some moments where the crowd was like, nope, sorry, we're Libertarians around these parts, and we don't agree with you on that. … I thought that was fine,” Smith added.

A May 23 Washington Post op-ed from Peter Goettler, president and chief executive of the Cato Institute, argued that both Trump and the LP are no longer libertarian.

Göttler writes:

In truth, Trump’s appearance this week says as much about the Libertarian Party as it does about him. The party has had its ups and downs and some embarrassing moments throughout its history. But its problems more often arose from amateurism and fractiousness rather than malice, the inevitable effect of being a small third party in a two-party system.

But today’s party leadership has been taken over by a faction that places it well outside the bounds of libertarianism altogether and appears comfortable with right-wing authoritarianism.

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