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Trump supporters endure heat to see president

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Tyler Stocks

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

President Donald Trump drew thousands to Greenville on Wednesday where they waited hours in triple-digit temperatures to participate in his "Keep America Great" rally at East Carolina University's Minges Coliseum.

Trump touched down at Pitt-Greenville Airport about 6 p.m. in Air Force One, about a half an hour after Vice President Mike Pence landed in Air Force Two. Pence was traveling from Fort Bragg with Dan Bishop, the Republican hopeful in the District 12 Congressional race.

Trump arrived from Washington, D.C., and was greeted by Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly, state Treasurer Dale Folwell and state Sens. Norm Sanderson of Pamlico County and Jim Perry, Lenoir County, all Republicans.

A long motorcade then drove about three miles to the coliseum, where sweltering supporters like Luke Ferrell of Raleigh awaited.

"I'm just looking forward to hearing the president speak," Ferrell said. "I just turned 18 so it's the first time I can vote in November."

Ferrell praised President Trump's policies and said the economy is doing well.

"We weren't doing that good 10 years ago, now we're in an economic boom. That's partly because of him," Ferrell said.

Ferrell was among supporters gathered outside Minges at 9 a.m. Many had been there since 4 a.m. The crowd grew steadily through the day, and Greenville Fire-Rescue had to treat many people for heat-related problems, officials said. Some were transported to Vidant Medical Center.

Officials opened the doors to Minges earlier than planned to allow them some relief from the sun and heat, which reportedly reached 108 with humidity factored in.

About 8,000 were allowed to enter Minges; many hundreds more had to watch the rally from a large-screen monitor in the shadow of Minges and the ECU Pirates' Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Not everyone was there to praise Trump. A small group of protesters was herded down a hill from the coliseum, where they engaged in a peaceful demonstration far from the action.

"I don't like anything he projects," Carolyn Smith of Greenville, one of about 40 demonstrators said. "I'm not for hate and racism and discrimination. I'm a big environmentalist, and we're going backward in this country. I just can't believe where this country is going from where it was."

State and local Democratic party leaders also gathered to show their opposition to the president during a 3 p.m. event at Greenville's Town Common, a riverside park a couple miles from Minges.

State Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said that the president has broken promises that affect the economy and health care.

"Trump promised middle-class tax cuts," Goodwin said. "Instead, it's been a windfall for corporations and taxes are expected to rise for North Carolina working families by 2027 ... Layoffs have continued under Trump's tenure and his tax scam actually incentivizes companies to move jobs overseas ... Donald Trump and the GOP have waged an all-out attack to undermine health care for millions of Americans — increasing costs through his efforts to sabotage our health care system and trying to gut protections for people with pre-exisiting conditions."

Local party chairman, Charles McLawhorn, said he wanted "to remind everyone that this is not Trump country. Pitt County voted for Secretary Clinton by a wide margin in 2016 (52 percent to 45 percent) and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. In 2020, Pitt County will vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic nominee for president, whomever the nominee is."

Trump supporters came from far and near to support the president.

Jonathan Uzcategui, a business owner who was born in Caracas, Venezuela, but now lives in Wilmington, said socialism is a real threat from Democrats.

"I love that (Trump) is against socialists," Uzcategui said. "I am from Venezuela originally, so anybody that is against socialism, I'm for it. Americans need to wake up and see that if they don't support this president, and stay away from the Democratic party, this country is going to go like Venezuela," Uzcategui said.

Uzcategui got to the rally at 4 a.m. and said Trump's policies represent North Carolinians and all Americans.

"His policies so far are good. The president is for Americans. Show up and be supportive of the president if you don't want to have this country going to bad things," Uzcategui said.

"He is not a racist like people say he is. I think he's a transparency person. He's not perfect. I totally agree and support him. Hopefully, he'll get re-elected and take control of the House and the Senate," Uzcategui said.

Louis Sparks, a 20-year Air Force veteran who came from Goldsboro agreed.

"Most of his policies I agree with, and I just want to be here to support him," Sparks said. "Most of his policies are for the people, they're not government policies. I like that he speaks his mind. He speaks like we speak. People need to get out and support him," Sparks said.

Then there are people like Bob Carter and Steven Reed who are attending a rally for the first time.

Carter and his wife drove from Washington, D.C., and are staying at a local hotel.

Carter said he wants to see a real rally.

"I think the reason we came down was to see what it's like for ourselves," Carter said. "You don't get a real sense of it on TV. We wanted to experience the whole carnival atmosphere. We didn't really know what to expect."

What Carter said he likes most about President Trump are his economic policies.

"He's approaching it as a business. He's improving the economy and improving the economy is the No. 1 thing for me. He's reduced the onerous big government burdens that have been placed on us over time. I think he's trying to get us back to where we can allow free enterprise to work."

Reed came from Jacksonville and serves as a volunteer with the Trump campaign.

"I almost couldn't sleep I was so excited, and I was up at like 4 a.m. I really love the president," Reed said. "He's not the typical politician. How often do you get a chance to see a president and possibly meet a president? I think it's your responsibility as a good citizen to want to do something like this and have a little part in history seeing history right in front of you. He's the only president that ever did anything like this," Reed said.

Reed said he believes that President Trump is honest and that the news media can't be trusted.

"I like that he keeps his promises. He's probably the first one in my lifetime, and I'm 54-years-old, that actually kept promises and didn't make excuses. And he's a straight shooter. I enjoy that about him."

Reed said Trump uses Twitter because the news media makes him look bad.

"He has no other avenue to put it, because most of the media doesn't report honestly about him. I think that's his means of getting the word out of what he feels or what he says because (the media) is always trying to put words in his mouth.

"He says what he means and means what he says. He's a straight-shooter and that's refreshing. Even if you don't like his tweets, I don't think that's required."

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