HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — A crowd of more than 4,000 Richmonders gathered at the Richmond Raceway Complex on Wednesday evening to hear 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. In what would prove to be a night of contrasts, attendees sang the national anthem and bowed their heads in prayer, and then they also shouted down and screamed at some protesters who interrupted the event.
Timothy Harrell went to the rally with a T-shirt that featured the former reality star’s face on the front and both sleeves. He said Trump will be “the jobs president” and added that he likes his tax policies for the middle class.
Other supporters cited Trump’s business background as the reason they believe he is the best candidate in the Republican field. Many of the supporters said they have no second choice among the Republican candidates and they have not considered any of the other alternative to Trump.
Jeff Catella works as a general contractor and said he has read all of Trumps books and thinks the author of The Art of the Deal has the right stuff to be president.
“He’s a businessman, that’s the primary reason why I am behind him,” said Catella. “He has a great outlook, and a new plan.”
Other attendees included local political veterans, such as Gary Byler, who worked for the Reagan Administration and was personally invited by Donald Trump’s team to attend the event. He hasn’t worked for any politicians since President Ronald Reagan, but Donald Trump has his attention.
“I like the fact he can’t be bought and is different from the other folks,” said Byler. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I think we need something different.”
But not everybody was sold on Trump’s political message. Brenda Acevedo came to the rally dressed in a Mexican Flag poncho and an oversized sombrero. She said his message wasn’t clear and he kept reiterating how rich he was instead of elaborating on the issues. She questioned whether being a good businessman has any correlation with being a good president.
Other spectators could be heard shouting at Trump and booing loudly from the back. Other counter actions were much less vocal. People wore Bernie Sanders stickers or Barack Obama t-shirts.
The tension culminated between the opposing sides and resulted in several altercations throughout the night. Attendee Stefan Pruessman said there were a total of three fights. In one case a young woman traded expletives with a group of four men until she was escorted from the property.
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As for Trump and the speech itself, most of the attendees got exactly what they came for. Bob and Lisa Cummins, two Trump volunteers, were very pleased with Donald Trump coming to Richmond and the message he bought along.
“We like him because he tells it how it is and is very honest,” said Lisa Cummins. “If he doesn’t get the nomination, we may not vote.”
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