KENANSVILLE — Donald Trump’s rally across North Carolina hit its peak at the Duplin Events Center Tuesday night, when a raucous crowd greeted the polarizing presidential candidate, cheering and chanting along to his well-known talking points — ranging from chiding Hillary Clinton to touting wall-building and job creation that he said will revive a deteriorating nation.
“All over the country, we have created a movement. Come Nov. 8, we are going to win this state and we are going to win back the White House,” Trump said to booming applause and cheers as the people, many wearing the familiar red “Make America Great Again” hats, waved red, white and blue Trump-Pence signs. “We are going to bring our jobs back to North Carolina.”
Trump’s campaign landed in Greensboro on Tuesday and, following a visit to High Point University, moved on to a huge crowd in Kenansville, where people from Sampson, Duplin and surrounding counties packed the Events Center. Close to 10,000 were expected for the rally, which quickly reached capacity forcing some outside the 75,000-square-foot arena.
Believed to be one of the largest events in the county’s history, Duplin County Schools and James Sprunt Community College both dismissed at noon Tuesday because of the rally. N.C. Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Duplin County and N.C. Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson whipped the crowd into a frenzy leading up to Trump’s keynote address.
“This is the greatest day in Duplin County. This is the largest group of deplorables I’ve ever seen and I’m happy to be with every one of you,” said Dixon, alluding to Clinton’s comments labeling half of Trump supporters as such. “We are not deplorables. We are red-blooded, God-fearing, gun-carrying Americans who stand for the National Anthem.”
He said Trump’s presence in North Carolina showed that the state and its people truly matter, urging each and every one of them to hit the polls. Jackson echoed that, while running with the National Anthem baton.
“When Francis Scott Key wrote (the Star-Spangled Banner), he probably never thought we would have fallen so low,” Jackson remarked. “We have the chance to change that and make America great again.”
He said Trump rallies, including the one in Kenansville, show that people are “fed up.”
“Coalitions have been formed across the state. It shows we all are fed up with the status quo,” the state senator said, noting Trump’s interest in agriculture issues affecting North Carolina, specifically Sampson and Duplin counties. “He’s the only candidate who has shown any interest in the agriculture industry, which is the lifeblood of this county and this state.”
Beginning his address, Trump said he had been touring the state all day. It took a matter of moments before he started in on his Democratic counterpart.
“We have to replace a very failed and very corrupt establishment with a new government that serves you, your family and your country — and that’s going to happen,” said Trump, who added that Clinton represents a contingent that gets rich off a “rigged” system. “She represents everyone responsible for the decades-long squeezing of the middle class. The middle class in this country has been treated so unfairly as jobs and wealth move to other countries, like Mexico and many others.
“On Nov. 8, that special interest gravy train is coming to a very abrupt end,” he attested.
He chided his opponent as “the chief emissary for globalism” and “the vessel for all global special interests seeking to run our government and our lives.”
“I’m not running to be president of the world. I’m running to be president of the United States,” Trump said to chants of “USA! USA! USA!” “America is going to come first from now on.”
‘People are energized’
Many have hopped aboard that movement, he attested.
“People are energized now,” said Trump. “Look at these grounds and the thousands of people outside. The days of jobs leaving North Carolina are over. Look at what is happening to our country. Open borders — we’re going to end.”
Trump made a point to compare his rally crowds to what he perceived were much smaller numbers for Clinton’s rallies, and the inverse of money spent on campaigning. Trump said he has spent less in some states than Clinton but is still “winning” those states.
“We can talk about Hillary Clinton for hours,” he said. “We can talk about the rigged system, the 30,000 emails that were deleted … all the problems our country has had — look at her with Libya, look at ISIS.”
He said the United States has a “tremendous problem” with both immigration and job losses.
“By the way, we will build a wall,” he said, touching on arguably his most prominent talking point. At the very mention of the wall, the crowd enthusiastically cut Trump off and began to chant “Build a wall! Build a wall! Build a wall!” Like a musician playing the hits, Trump went right along and everyone recited the lyrics together.
“Oh we’ll have a very strong border,” Trump said. “Who’s going to pay for the wall?”
“Mexico!” the crowd responded.
“Do you even have a doubt?” he asked.
“No!” the masses replied.
“We need strong borders,” Trump said, citing the “open border” policies of Barack Obama and Clinton and the many Syrians who have recently become citizens.
“We can’t have people coming into this country who don’t love our people and love our country,” he stated. “We want people to come into our country, but they have to come into a system and come in legally. We want safe zones and we want other people to pay for them. There’s nothing like doing things with OPM — ‘other people’s money.’ We cannot have these people come into the United States. We don’t know anything about them. We cannot continue these policies.”
The presidential candidate, as he has done at numerous other rallies, read an excerpt from “The Snake” toward the end of his address, using it as a metaphor for illegal immigrants. He teased it several times between his calls for closed borders, claims that Clinton copy-catted his “extreme vetting” phrase and boasts of spending “millions and millions” of his own money to never-before-seen results — one pundit, he reminded the audience, said Trump was a winner either way because of the way he’s run his campaign.
A song by Al Wilson written by Oscar Brown Jr., “The Snake” tells the story of a charitable woman who takes in an ailing snake only to have the reptile kill her with a poisonous bite. Brown’s family has objected to the reading of the poem, telling The Chicago Tribune earlier this year that they know Brown, a Chicago native, would be the “polar opposite” of Trump.
The end of the poem includes the lines “‘Oh shut up, silly woman,’ said the reptile with a grin. ‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.’” The presidential candidate gave his own twist on the poem, reciting: “You knew damn well I was a snake. You knew everything about me before you took me in.”
The crowd met the poem with another rousing ovation.
Protest outside rally
At the very end of his 45-minute speech, Trump took just a few moments to review his platforms — repeal Obamacare, get rid of Common Core, protect the Second Amendment, aid a depleted military — all of which were cheered. Inner cities also need attention, said Trump, saying some neighborhoods were more dangerous than Afghanistan.
Amanda Marshburn of Sampson County said she identified with Trump and liked what he had to say, especially regarding the middle class and keeping jobs here.
“I loved the fact that he acknowledges that it is the middle class American that makes this country function daily — not the millionaires, but the everyday folks, like those of us that reside in Sampson County that work and do our part for this great nation,” Marshburn stated following the rally. “I loved that he’s willing to keep those great-paying jobs that afford us middle class Americans our American dream, here in the United States.
“The idea that if companies want to fire American workers and take their manufacturing jobs down to Mexico, that’s fine but we’ll tax your product heavily when it comes back across the border,” she stated, alluding to portions of Trump’s speech.
Trump supporter Cotton Hogan, who has volunteered for Trump, is from Fayetteville. She has seen him before and is an adamant supporter. In a sea of creative shirts — some were variations of “Hillary for Prison” — Hogan donned one that read “If you’re afraid to offend, you cannot be honest.”
“I’ve been following him from Fayetteville. I’m all for it,” she said of Trump’s stances on the issues after the Kenansville rally. “I want the wall and we can’t afford to have Hillary in there. What about the 15 indictments against her — what is going on with that? How is she going to run for president? Is she going to run and hope she becomes president so she can pardon herself?”
Jovannie Rodriguez protested outside the Trump rally. She and others held signs that read “Mr. Hate Leave My State,” “No Racism No Hate No Trump” and “We Will Be The Generation That Stops The Hate.” A resident of Wilmington, she previously attended a Trump rally at UNC-Wilmington and conceded that one was “worse” than the one in Kenansville.
“Maybe (it was) because I was one of the few Hispanics protesting,” she stated. “(On Tuesday) we were an actual crowd but there was some vulgar language used against us and physical contact. This was supposed to be just a peaceful protest like (the one) I did in Wilmington, but we were called complete idiots like the rest of the Mexicans.”
Those were some of the kinder words, she noted. Rodriguez had rally tickets in hand but said she was turned away due to her clothing. Kenansville did not have any major incidents inside the rally as Trump has seen at other stops, including one in Fayetteville earlier this year.
“I wasn’t going to protest inside because it clearly said on the ticket that we would get kicked out,” Rodriguez said. “I was going to respectfully listen to what Trump had to say, but the police threatened me and told me I wasn’t allowed to go inside. So I started to protest outside. Certain Trump supporters got into our faces and grabbed our signs and ripped them apart and threw them into the ground.”
Inside the Events Center, toward the end of the rally, Trump appealed to voters to hit the polls and said it was vital that he take the office — for the country’s sake.
“I am your voice,” he said. “Right now we have $20 trillion worth of debt. It’s going to be very destructive unless we have we have someone who is very, very good and very, very smart and knows what HE — in this case I have to say he because there’s two of us — knows what he’s doing.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.