Long before the Republican frontrunner took the stage, his supporters were shouting and chanting in the stands. The crowd of over 11,000 students, professionals and bikers carried both manufactured and handmade signs.
Twenty minutes before Donald Trump took the stage, a chant of “Trump, Trump, Trump” began at the middle of the arena and quickly gained support in the peripheries of the crowd. Meanwhile, the supporters in the middle sections started a round of the wave that made its way around the crowd several times.
As Van Halen’s “Right Now” blared from the Sun Dome speakers, Trump made his way to the podium. His fans greeted him with a chant of “U-S-A” as he began to speak.
The rally was the first of its kind by Trump in Florida. It followed the New Hampshire primary, which he won by a significant margin, according to the Associated Press. With 35.3 percent of the vote, Trump was nearly 20 percent ahead of his nearest competitor, Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
As in the past, there were several groups of protesters outside of Trump’s rally. However, the New York businessman was not fazed by their presence. Rather, he was encouraged by them.
“What an amazing event, every night. You know, last night, we were in Baton Rouge, we broke a record held for many years by Elton John,” Trump said. “We had 12,000 and 4,000 or 5,000 outside. Tonight, we have much more than that and thousands outside.”
An estimated 11,000 people attended the rally, with an additional 5,000 outside, breaking the Sun Dome’s 1988 record at an Elton John concert.
Trump’s rallies are notoriously dangerous environments for protesters, many of whom are yelled at as they are escorted out. At Friday’s event, attendees were encouraged to chant “Trump, Trump, Trump” to identify a protestor in their section so the police could escort the individual out.
One young woman was identified 40 minutes into the rally, and several security guards were quickly in front of her. As the crowd booed, she took a bow and left the arena.
Trump then began to criticize the media for highlighting protesters and negative happenings at his rallies.
“It started on June 16,” he said. “They said, ‘He’s not going to run. He’ll never do it. Then I signed Form A’ that’s when you sign your life away. Then they said, ‘He’ll never turn in his financial information.’”
As Trump detailed his antagonistic relationship with the media, his supporters standing in front of the podium began to boo loudly. At intervals, Trump would encourage such booing throughout the night.
“I put in (my financial information), I said to the accountants, ‘You’ve got to do it on time and under budget,’ right? Like the state,” he said. “That’s the kind of thinking our country needs. We owe $19 trillion.
“Our country doesn’t win anymore. We don’t win with the military anymore — you know, ISIS. And our military is really being treated badly; you know who’s really being treated badly? Veterans.”
Trump claimed he was told that 22 veterans reportedly commit suicide every day. However, according to the Washington Post, that number is an approximate average based on a report by the Veteran’s Administration, which compiled data on suicides identified with veterans from 21 states between 1999 and 2011.
“I said, ‘You mean, “a month,” “a year”?’ They said, ‘no, a day’,” Trump said. “They can’t get treated; they can’t get service; they wait four, five, six days in the waiting room.”
The crowd booed loudly and Trump continued. After another round of accusations against the media for biased reporting to suggest his rallies have low attendance, he turned his attention to various reforms he hopes to make.
“We’re going to start winning with our health care, we’re going to start winning with our health care,” he said. “We’re going to terminate Obamacare; we’re going to replace it. We’re going to get rid of Common Core, which is a total disaster. We’re going to educate our children locally — with love — not out of Washington, with the bureaucrats.
“We’re going to protect our Second Amendment rights. Look at what happened in Paris, where they have the toughest gun laws. … The only people that have the guns are the bad guys. So, they go in different places and kill 130 people … and the bullets are all going in one direction.”
Trump pointed to members of the crowd.
“And if we had some guns strapped to the waist. Believe me, if we had a gun on the ankle and we had some bullets going in the opposite way, it would have been a whole different story,” he said.
As his discussion of the Second Amendment concluded, a sign flew up in the standing crowd. Immediately, Trump began a chant that would emanate throughout the building.
“Build that wall. Build that wall. Build that wall,” he and the crowd chanted.
The businessman spoke again on the subject of immigration, eliciting cheers from the crowd. In defense of his own declared stance on illegal immigration, Trump said he wants non-Americans to enter this country, “but they have to come into our country legally.”
“What do we really want? I mean, whether you’re liberal or democrat, what do we really want?” Trump said. “We want safety. We want health care. We want a good place to live. We want to make a living. We want jobs.
“I mean, you’d think that you could talk to a couple of people like that for 10 minutes and they’d be on our side, but I don’t know. I don’t understand it; you’ll have a room like this. We have 16,000 people, and so little protest.”
The crowd broke into laughter and cheers when Trump recalled his response to a reporter who asked him about the wall Trump has proposed between the U.S. and Mexico.
“I get a call from one of the reporters yesterday and they said ‘The President of Mexico said they will not, under any circumstances, pay for the wall’,” he said. “They said to me, ‘What is your comment?’
“The wall just got 10 feet higher.”
Trump claimed the U.S. is done with being “pushed around like a bunch of dummies.” His extremely patriotic nature is also evident in his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again, which has resonated with every level of Americans.
Behind Trump’s podium, a group of leather-clad individuals held a “Bikers for Trump” sign, while women in business attire and fraternity brothers stood side by side in the crowd.
The candidate boasted of his political freedom based on his precedent of self-funding.
“Jeb Bush is a total stiff, by the way. The head of his finance committee, Woody Johnson, he’s from Johnson & Johnson,” Trump said. “So then when you wonder, ‘Why is it that the politicians don’t put out drugs to competitive bidding,’ … and you have other Woody Johnsons, meaning other people in other industries, taking care of all these people (and saying) ‘You can’t do that, these people took good care. Johnson and Johnson put up millions of dollars.’
Then, they’re going to say, ‘Yeah, they were very nice to me, you’re right.’ When they come up to Trump, and they say ‘You can’t do that’,” I say ‘I sure as hell can.’”
He was not shy in calling out ISIS as a problem the U.S. is dealing with. President Barrack Obama, he said, won’t even use the term “radical Islamic terrorists,” so he can’t address the problem.
“You can’t solve the problem if you’re not going to even mention the names,” he said.
The rally concluded with a supportive chant of “You’re gonna win.” Trump smiled proudly and brought his speech to a close, claiming the U.S. is going to start winning again.
“We’re going to solve the problems; we’re going to make our country so strong,” he said. “We’re going to win again and again.”
The one thing he said his supporters need to do is vote.
“I leave you with this: I love you people. I’ve been all over,” he said. “And what I said to my friend is true: I love you people. Go out and vote. We’re going to make America great again … and we’re all going to be incredibly proud again to be citizens of this incredible country.”