Most presidential candidate’s rallies don’t quite go like the one at the Winthrop Coliseum on Friday night.
From the beginning, Donald Trump made an entrance that was more like the Eagles’ basketball team, or maybe a pro-wrestling champion, with rotating spotlights over an introductory montage of media clips and rock music that pumped up the raucous, capacity crowd.
From the stage, Trump told the standing-room-only crowd that his rallies were a lot more fun than the other guys’.
“They’re a bunch of stiffs,” he said.
Trump got a mostly cheers from an estimated 6,500 people in the coliseum – except for four different protestors who were removed from the crowd relatively early in the night – as he called for a tougher restrictions on immigrants from Mexico and refugees from the Middle East entering the country, an end to the outsourcing of jobs, and a better economy – a platform summed up by the slogan “Make America Great Again.”
At several points, Trump stopped speaking as security personnel removed protestors from the stands, while the mostly supportive crowd chanted “Trump” or “USA.”
One erupted when Trump began talking about his opposition to Middle Eastern refugees and his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States “until we can figure out what the hell is going on,” – a plan that drew criticism from the left and the right in the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino shootings.
“A lot of them probably are ISIS,” he said of the “migration” fleeing the Syrian civil war. “You look at them and they’re mostly men, they’re young, they’re strong. And you think, ‘Where are the women and children?’”
A couple of protestors stood in the stands behind him, one of them a woman hearing an Islamic hijab scarf and a shirt with a pro-Islam message on it. She was soon removed while the crowd booed, and one woman sitting nearby tried to pull off the woman’s headscarf.
Trump took the interruptions in stride, and didn’t back down from his plans to pursue a more nationalistic tone – a “tough tone” he called it – in foreign, economic and immigration policy.
From the time he announced his candidacy in June, Trump has targeted immigration as a major issue, blaming Mexico for allowing drugs and “rapists” to enter the U.S. and claiming he will build a wall on the southern border at the Mexican government’s expense. He reiterated the latter call on Friday.
“There’s going to be a great big wall, and there’s going to be a door in the wall, and they can come in, but they’ve got to come in legally,” he said.
He also took a populist stand on gun rights. Speaking the day after President Obama held a televised town hall about his executive action to more strictly define gun dealers who are required to run federal background checks, he promised that under his administration, the Second Amendment would be “totally, totally protected.”
Referring to two massive terrorist-connected shootings in the French capital this year, Trump pointed out that “Paris is the most anti-gun location ... so the only ones with the guns are the bad guys. You saw it with the shooting at the magazine, and then you saw it again.”
After he finishes the wall on the southern border and takes a tougher stance on trade policy, Trump told the Winthrop Coliseum crowd that he would “bring the jobs back” to America, would save Social Security and Medicare, and improve services for the country’s veterans.
At one point, he promised to seize Middle Eastern oil fields from the Islamic State, and use the profits gained from selling the oil to help the war wounded.
Crowds lined up four hours ahead of time. Two lines stretched from the Coliseum toward the parking lot Friday afternoon, and traffic was backed up along Eden Terrace, where a row of Trump signs were displayed. At the beginning of the event, Trump commented about the lines of cars that were still waiting to get in, but promised the crowd he wouldn’t wait for them.
Chip Baker of Richburg was near the front of the line. He said he arrived at 10:30 a.m. Friday to get a good spot.
“He’s not afraid to speak his mind. He’s not intimidated by the media and he’s anti-political correctness,” Baker said.
Baker said he believes the country “is in danger from terrorists, and Trump will try to stop them. Obama is trying to bring them over here. I think Obama hates America.”
Seth and Jennifer Thomas of Summersville, W.Va., drove to Rock Hill at 9 a.m. Friday to set up a stand selling Trump hats, shirts and other gear supporting the candidate.
The couple said they have been to four different states to sell homemade items at Trump appearances. The top sellers, said Seth Thomas, are a “Make America Great Again” hat, a “Hillary for Prison” button and a “Bomb The (expletive) Out of ISIS” button – a famous phrase Trump repeated on Friday.
Jerel Sangandi from Concord, N.C., came with a pro-Trump sign from the candidate’s web site.
He said he supports Trump because “the guy’s got energy. He’s not low-T (low testosterone). He’s saying everything we believe in. We’re the silent majority.”
“But we’re not going to be silent anymore,” added another Trump supporter, Brendan Spatafora from Troutman, N.C.
Spatafora said he believes that “political correctness is destroying the country. It’s destroying the First Amendment. And Trump will support and enforce the Constitution.”