TAMPA -- Holding a sign that declared "Immigrant Strong," Tim Heberlein stood with other Donald Trump protesters Monday outside the GOP front-runner's rally at the Tampa Convention Center.
"We are here actually in silent protest," said Heberlein, a 34-year-old Tampa resident. "We are not here for altercation. We are here to say 'Fellow Americans, you are welcome on this side of the fence' even though we may not be necessarily welcome on theirs. We are being very civil about our opposition to the way they talk about our country."
Other signs at the Trump rally included "#Dump Trump," "America is only great without hate" and "Love has no borders."
While a handful of protesters interrupted Trump's hour-long speech inside and were kicked out, most protesters stayed outside the convention center's doors. The Tampa campaign stop came three days after clashes in Chicago forced Trump to cancel his campaign event there.
Some Trump supporters and protesters engaged in debate outside the event about why each held their respective view of the presidential candidate.
"This movement and these people, we are about one thing and we are about sharing ideas," said Brandon Roberts, a Trump supporter from Palm Beach. "We are about engaging people. We are out here talking and converting other people to vote for Donald J. Trump because we are about free speech. We are not like Chicago. We are not going to engage in violence. We are not going to shut down other people's thoughts and ideas. We are going to engage open ideas freely, which is what this government and this country is about."
A Trump pinata that was beaten outside the convention center was the only violence Roberts said he witnessed.
"The only violence came from their side," he said.
For more than three hours Monday, Clearwater resident Roger Davis held a "Florida is Marco Rubio Country" sign outside Trump's rally.
"I feel this is the last opportunity here in Florida to have some influence on what people are thinking," Davis said. "There needed to be Rubio representation here I thought."
With no core values whatsoever, Davis contended, Trump is only getting all the attention because he's a celebrity.
"Sen. Rubio has core values," Davis said. "He stands by what he believes in. He stands for true conservative principles. He is the only GOP candidate left that is rational and conservative."
During the campaign so far, Trump has been blaming the anger on protesters, said Kellie Gaston, a Trump protester.
"We just wanted to show that we are here trying to basically let everyone know about Trump's views without being violent," the 19-year-old Tampa resident said.
Claire Aronson, Manatee County reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow her on Twitter@Claire_Aronson.