Washington: For a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, being booed out of a Donald Trump campaign rally has turned out to be 'lucky' as he got to meet President Barack Obama a day later.
JJ Holmes had been sitting on his knees for months at his home in Longwood, Florida, and using his nose to type search on his iPad for 'Mary Poppins' plays and Trump events, his mother Alison Holmes said.
Throughout the election, Alison said, he had been itching to go to a rally - to express his disdain for Trump, who came under fire last year for mocking a reporter with a disability. "I wanted to go because Donald J Trump made fun of disabled people," JJ said in a video statement to The Washington Post, using his computer vocalisation device.
— Francisco J. Pelayo (@FranPelayo) November 6, 2016
On Saturday, JJ got his wish - his mother agreed to take him to a Trump rally in Tampa. She said JJ had preprogrammed chants, such as 'Dump Trump' and 'Trump mocks the disabled', into his computer vocalisation device. Once he was inside the arena, he pushed a button to say his piece.
But, to their surprise, the crowd around them turned rowdy, she said. Trump supporters across the arena joined in — then Trump reportedly spoke out from the stage. "Oh, we have a Hillary Clinton person. Are they paying that person USD 1,500?" Trump said, according to Fox News.
"Get him out, please. Get him out." "I must tell you, the Bernie Sanders protesters had much more enthusiasm and spirit than this one," Trump was quoted as saying. "The problem with these Hillary protesters is my people make all the noise....You can't even hear the person." At the same time, Trump supporters near them started pushing her son's wheelchair, Alison said. And soon the boy and his family were escorted out, she said.
Outside, a reporter who covered the rally heard that the boy hoped to meet Obama one day, Holmes said. The reporter called Valentina Pereda, Florida press secretary for the Clinton campaign, who used to be the White House deputy director for Hispanic media.
Pereda offered to escort JJ and Alison to Clinton's Sunday rally in Kissimmee, Florida, where Obama was scheduled to deliver one of his final campaign speeches. At the venue, Pereda led JJ and his mother through crowds of people to the VIP area near the stage, she said. With the help of a White House staffer friend, Pereda was able to set up a brief meeting between JJ and Obama.
After the president's speech, Pereda's friend escorted them to the other side of the barricades that separated rally attendees from the stage. Obama leaned forward, shook JJ's hand and smiled for a photo.