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Takeaways from Trump’s Toledo rally

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President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence kicked off the 2020 campaign year in Ohio, hosting a “Keep America Great” rally in Toledo, covering a variety of topics — from Iran to the economy — and garnering more than 9,000 supporters, according to a staff member with the Trump campaign. 

Pence introduced Trump. He made his way to the stage as the crowd cheered and chanted, “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” before kicking off his speech talking about the economy. 

These companies would leave, they’d go to Mexico. They’d go to Canada, they’d close up, they’d buy from China. Now they’re all coming back, new ones, old ones, they’re all coming back and many are coming right here to Ohio,” he said. “… Ohio just had the best year economically in the history of your state.” 

Later he mentioned how he “…restarted the legendary army tank factory in Lima” and discussed USMCA, a new trade deal drafted to replace NAFTA. The trade deal is expected to go to a full Senate vote in the near future.

“The USMCA will save the American auto industry,” Trump said. “We’ll keep them [auto jobs] right here. Because we take care of our great auto workers of Toledo, the home of Jeep.”

Trump also mentioned how trade deals will benefit farmers, including that he wants the farmers to purchase larger tractors.

“I keep saying, ‘Go buy larger tractors, go by larger tractors,” he said. “I looked at some of the hydraulic and I love the whole thing. The world of tractors and all that stuff.”

Donald Trump supporters hold up signs that say “Trump, Pence” and “Keep America Great” before his rally in Toledo on January 9, 2020. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Another hot button issue of the night was the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.  Trump claimed in his speech that Soleimani was planning to attack multiple U.S. embassies. 

Soleimani was actively planning new attacks, and he was looking very seriously at our embassies — and not just the embassy in Baghdad. But, we stopped him, and we stopped him quickly, and we stopped him cold,” he said.

“The sadistic mass murderer Qassem Soleimani planned and executed attacks against American targets, killing and wounding thousands of U.S. service members,” Trump said. “Last week the United States once again took bold and decisive action to save American lives and deliver American justice. … So, now he’s gone, and that’s a good thing,” Trump said.

He then touched on the attack that took place at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Trump also criticized presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s response to his actions, calling Pelosi “nervous Nancy.” 

One topic the president only discussed briefly was his impeachment, which he referred to as the “impeachment hoax.” Pence — who spoke for about 15 minutes prior to Trump — said of the impeachment, which had almost unanimous support from House Democrats: “[Democrats] pushed their partisan impeachment through the House. … Senate Republicans will have their say very soon. …  They know they can’t defeat President Trump in November 2020.” 

Vice President Mike Pence addressed the crowd before Donald Trump gave his speech. Pence praised the work that the president has done and encouraged those is attendance to re-elect Trump. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Trump also mentioned that he does not like watching the Democratic debates even though it “is like my job,” he said.

“I try to watch the competition, but it’s like watching death. Those debates are boring. You got to sit through those things for two or three hours. You got to be really committed to the country to do that.”

Shortly after, while Trump talked about Veterans Affairs (VA), a protestor started yelling from the stands. Trump halted his rally while the crowd “booed” and security escorted the protester out of the arena. In response to the demonstrator, Trump said, “They go home to mommy, it’s a beautiful sight.”

Supporters of Donald Trump in the stands of the Huntington Center in Toledo. The arena reached capacity hours before Trump’s speech was scheduled to begin. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Trump also brought back some of his perennial rally talking points.

At one-point Trump gestured at the media area in the arena and said: “That’s a lot of corruption back there.” This prompted some in the crowd to chant, “CNN sucks!”

He also mentioned his 2016 campaign, calling “Make America Great Again” the “greatest theme in political history.”

Trump finished by saying, “Proud citizens helped build this country and together we are taking back our country. We are returning power to you, the American people.”

His speech lasted 90 minutes, and afterward the arena cleared out quickly.

Donald Trump addresses his supporters during his campaign’s first rally of 2020 in Toledo, OH at the Huntington Center. The Huntington Center reached full capacity hours before his speech started. January 9, 2020. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Trump’s supporters had been lined up over 24 hours before he was scheduled to speak.

Local officials were expecting a large crowd of both supporters and protestors to descend on the downtown area. Before the event the Huntington Center’s website said staff were expecting a line of 1,000 people before doors opened at 3 p.m. for the 7 p.m. event.

A Toledo Police officer said they closed the line at 4 p.m. because the stadium was nearing capacity. The Trump campaign stationed a large video board on Huron Street directly outside the arena so the overflow crowd could watch the rally.

Around the same time as the rally was getting underway, Pence took the opportunity to stop at a local Toledo landmark, Schmucker’s, a family-owned diner that has been open since 1948.

 

At the restaurant Pence tried to garner support for Trump and met with some of the restaurant’s patrons. Pence is the second vice president to stop at Schmucker’s. Then-Vice President Joe Biden visited while on the campaign trail in October 2012. 

Tyler Frendt, of Waterville, Ohio, came out the rally dressed in a suit with a U.S. flag design and a “Trump 2020” cowboy hat.

“I love everything he [Trump] is doing, and I tried to make it last year but couldn’t,” Frendt said when asked why he came to the rally. He said that he would like to Trump to focus on, “just putting America first and stop putting other countries over top of us.”

Tyler Frendt of Waterville, OH waits in line to go into the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo for Donald Trump’s first rally of the year. January 9, 2020. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Zach Smith from Port Huron, Michigan — about two hours north of Toledo — spoke about how well of a job he thinks Trump is doing. 

“World-wise I am beyond impressed. He’s been able to work with countries like North Korea even work with countries like Iran,” Smith said.

However, not everyone was so pleased with Trump’s visit.

Outside the arena — just before Trump spoke — a group of protestors numbering in the hundreds started to assemble on the corner opposite the arena entrance.

Demonstrators from various labor unions around Toledo protested Donald Trump’s visit to the Huntington Center. The group was mainly protesting against “union-busting.” Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Brooks Sutherland, a reporter for Toledo’s The Blade posted to Twitter a minor altercation between a Trump supporter and the protesters. Police intervened and told the supporter to move along.

Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes spoke to the demonstrators outside. He said that he was concerned about safety during Trump’s visit.

“The concern I have here, is right after they assassinated the Iranian general, the fallout that could potentially come. I’m just fearful that some copycat or agitator will act a fool and create a problem,” Sykes said.

Toledo City Councilman at-large Larry Sykes talks with demonstrators on the corner of Jefferson and Erie in downtown Toledo outside of the Huntington Center ahead of Donald Trump’s campaign rally. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Ben Davis, another protester from Toledo, was on the corner with a bullhorn. He said, while he was not affiliated with any group, he felt like it was his duty to come out and protest Trump’s visit.

“It’s my citizen’s duty to protest Trump,” he said.

Further down the street, a group of three women held signs reading, “Trump Hurt OH.” The signs were paid by Nick Rubando for Congress.

“We’re tired of his lies, his broken promises to Ohio,” said Kimberly Yost of Toledo. “He’s incompetent. He warmongers.”

She went on to say, “Those ‘Christian values’ Trump has, I don’t know where they come from, but not the Bible.”

Carey Conley, also from Toledo and protesting Trump’s visit said, “I was raised in what’s now called evangelical. You cannot be a Christian and follow Trump.”

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof also spoke at the rally, voicing support for Trump’s reelection.  

“This November let’s Keep America Great by re-electing President Trump,” he said.

President of the Ohio Senate, Larry Obhof speaks to a crowd of Trump supporters at the Huntington Center in Toledo on January 9, 2020. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

After the conclusion of the rally, protesters changed locations to be across from the exit. Toledo Police tried to keep interactions to a minimum and placed barriers between the two groups. However, this did not stop debate between the two sides.

A man holds up a sign that reads, “Trump Hates the Working Class,” along with a group of protesters across from the exit of the Huntington Center in Toledo. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Both a small group of Trump supporters and a small group of protesters got into a screaming match using profanity and political rhetoric.

At one point a female Trump supporter yelled, “That’s not a very nice sign for a lady,” at a female protester holding a sign that contained profane words calling Trump a Nazi.

This screaming match between the protesters lasted for about 20 minutes.

Donald Trump supporters who were leaving the rally engaged in some verbal disagreements with protesters outside the Huntington Center on January 9, 2020. Photo by Nolan Cramer.

Shortly after 9:20 p.m., Toledo Police cleared both parties off of the streets. Most people dispersed and roads around the arena reopened in the hours after.

Toledo Police disclosed Friday morning that two people were arrested after the rally for disorderly conduct. The report says they got into a physical fight in the parking lot where protesters were gathering.

The Blade confirmed that one of the people arrested was Laura Gerken, daughter of Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken. 

The report went on to say that both people involved were “in a highly emotional state and was yelling obscenities both at the person she was engaged in the confrontation with, officers and passersby.”

As of Friday morning, it appears no other incidents occurred.

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