Capacity Crowd Inside Alumni Cheers Trump's Familiar Refrains, Support Of Barr
Protestors chanted on one side of the Eastern Bypass and supporters cheered on the other as President Donald J. Trump's motorcade pulled into Alumni Coliseum at Eastern Kentucky University.
It was a divide in evidence throughout the president's visit Saturday.
A Facebook Live video from the Bluegrass Activist Alliance showed that as the presidential crowd inside the arena listened to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” protestors outside waved signs and chanted. As the pre-rally playlist played Celine Dion’s “Let This Be Our Prayer,” protestors were repeating “Donald Trump! Go away! Racist, sexist, anti-gay!”
The president was in town supporting Republican Andy Barr's re-election in the 6th District congressional race. Barr is in the midst of an unexpectedly tight race with retired Marine Amy McGrath.
A temporary fence kept the protestors off the sidewalk, as a line of uniformed officers further separated the crowd from the road. The parking lot filled with Trump supporters, many wearing the iconic red MAGA hat. (Make America Great Again.)
By the time the motorcade sped by, some Trump supporters had already waited more than 12 hours, much of that time spent outside in chilly early fall weather.
Weku's Stu Johnson spoke to a number of Trump supporters as well as taking in the rally inside Alumni Coliseum.
The packed venue filled with whoops and applause as Trump took to the stage at around 7:15 p.m. Over the next hour, Trump revisited themes he has repeated many times at previous rallies as he's gone across the country supporting candidates. He touched on international relations, immigration, building the wall, and Hillary Clinton. The first boos came at the first mention of the word "Democrat.” The first swell of clapping came at the mention of coal.
"We have ended the war on clean, beautiful coal," Trump said with his signature flair.
He then welcomed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the stage. McConnell spoke briefly. Trump also gave a shout-out to Senator Rand Paul and said McConnell, Paul, and Gov. Matt Bevin should come together to visit the White House.
Barr joined Trump at the microphone praising the president's agenda.
Trump said his tenure in the White House has been a success, especially for Kentucky.
"I'm just afraid Kentucky is winning too much," Trump said with a smile.
The president praised Barr as a true conservative and described Democrat Amy McGrath as a progressive liberal. He further said Barr is a "great congressman" who will bring jobs to Kentucky.
He also told the crowd that the Barr-McGrath race was critical to maintaining control of the House.
"This may be the one to make a difference," he said.
Trump left the stage to thunderous applause around 8:30 p.m. Almost immediately after the speech ended, the Trump campaign sent an email announcing three more rallies in Nevada, Montana and Arizona.
Big Crowds, Little Trouble
The day started with folks lined up at Alumni Coliseum as early as 4 o'clock. By 11:30 a little more than a thousand people were in line for the 7 p.m. rally.
Traffic sometimes came to a standstill in Richmond. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reported slow speeds on many roads in the region and Lexington Police issued a traffic warning in midafternoon.
That didn't keep people away from the venue.
By 4 p.m. when the supporters were being allowed into Alumni Coliseum, police estimated the total crowd including protestors to be at about 10,000. In days leading up to the rally, predicted estimates in the press ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 based on the size of previous rallies in cities of a similar size. EKU Chief External Affairs Officer Kristi Middleton said the crowd inside the coliseum was at capacity, 6,100.
In spite of the passion on display by both sides, Middleton said as of the end of Trump's speech that she was not aware of any arrests or disturbances.
Trump's weeklong multi-state stumping for GOP congressional candidates ended up in Richmond. WEKU's Cheri Lawson reports it came with the midterm election a few weeks away.