Read Part II here.
Approaching the entrance, the music got louder in volume… until it was at outdoor concert decibels. The white antenna masts of about half a dozen local news trucks in the near distance reminded me of sailing ships at anchorage. Between songs were various pro-Trump information snippets about campaign promises he had kept and the strength of the economy. About every quarter-hour was a repeated PSA saying that the president supported the First Amendment as strongly he did the Second, and that if any protesters disrupted the rally not to touch or harm them in any way, but call for law enforcement to remove them to a secure designated protest area outside the arena. I expected to see protesters at some point, but never did. I inquired of several of the cops present as to the presence of any protesters, with the reply that they had seen one or two but they didn’t really stick around very long. Trump carried this county by some twenty points in 2016 so that made some sense.
Security was present and active, to include undercover officers mingling in the crowd. I won’t go into how I spotted them… but I saw at least four at different times. Inside the arena were metal detectors with TSA agents searching bags very much like an airport screening, with uniformed Secret Service agents wanding people down if they set off the detectors. They were all unerringly polite and the crowd didn’t give them any hassles about being screened.
Settling into the arena seats, it began to fill up very quickly to its 8500 seat capacity. By the time the president appeared, another 1,000 would be on the floor and about 500 would still be outside watching a giant jumbotron outside. Secret Service agents in suits kept up a nonchalant roving patrol among the crowd on the floor, but were unhurried — and only numbered about a dozen. In the center of the arena was a large press bull pen with about twenty-five reporters at long tables all deeply engrossed in their laptops. I never saw them leave the bull pen while I was there; more than three hours.
A raised platform, looking like a black mass of tangled machinery, held every shape, size and make of TV camera — all jammed in together so tight it appeared you couldn’t wedge a business card between them. Reporters capered around, stumbling and squeezing themselves into small spots to do a live shot from.
Trump was due at 7 p.m., but was late. There was no warm-up for the rally. I saw the Secret Service changing their positions near the raised podium, and move down to the floor to get a slightly better view.
The rally began with a moment of silence for the victims of the recent Tree of Life Synagogue shooting Pittsburgh and it was absolutely silent for that moment. Then the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem. It’s like a ball game; nearly ten thousand people all singing along. Then the rally opens with a local minister giving a long prayer, that includes prayers for literally everyone you could describe. I could no sooner think, “You are forgetting…” and they would be mentioned.
Featured image courtesy of author.
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