Hundreds of ticket holders were denied entry Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s “Keep America Great” rally in Greenville — many stayed on to view the event on an outdoor screen, others left frustrated after hours in the heat.
About 8,000 were allowed to enter Minges Coliseum; many more had to watch the rally from the large-screen monitor in the shadow of Minges and the ECU Pirates’ Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Some of the fuming Trump supporters heckled protesters stationed in a free speech zone outside the area as they made their way to their cars. The outbursts led to some heated exchanges that Greenville Police Department officers were able to quickly defuse. No injuries were reported.
Not all Trump supporters turned away reacted negatively. David Nelson from New Bern was bummed but he still stuck around to watch the president speak on the monitor.
“We had tickets and we couldn’t get in,” Nelson said. “It’s kind of distracting when you see all the supporters walking away because they can’t get in. I saw a thousand people it seemed like, walking away,” Nelson said.
Nelson said although he was disappointed, the strong turnout was encouraging.
“I just think it shows (Trump) is going to win. (The campaign) did all they could do I guess. I’ve gone to all his rallies (in North Carolina) since he started and I’ll go to the next one,” Nelson said.
Another ticket holder who came from Raleigh also was turned away.
“We had tickets and we thought we were getting in but we’re not,” Nick Harrell said. “It’s disappointing but it’s not earth shattering, it’s all about being here.”
Thousands waited hours in triple-digit temperatures outside Minges, some arriving as early as 4 a.m. to get a good spot in line. Luke Ferrell of Raleigh was among the early birds.
“I’m just looking forward to hearing the president speak,” Ferrell said about 9 a.m. “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.
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, although hospital officials would not supply an estimate.
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.
The small group of protesters was herded down a hill from the coliseum, where earlier on 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.”
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.,” Reed said. “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.”