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Crowd swamps Springs arena to worship President Trump as 2020 campaign season opens

AWASH IN FANS

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A marketing bonanza, the rally drew several vendors selling Trump hats, shirts and banners. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A marketing bonanza, the rally drew several vendors selling Trump hats, shirts and banners.

They came in heavy coats. They came in shorts. They came in jeans and bell bottoms. They came in MAGA hats, Trump capes, Trump masks and flag-decorated clothing.

They came with walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, babies in strollers and canes.

The young, old, black, brown, rich, poor, female and male — they all came.

They came in droves from Colorado Springs, Denver, Arvada, Aurora, Guffey, Limon, Cañon City and elsewhere.

They flocked to Colorado Springs to show homage to their leader, President Donald Trump, who was due to sweep them off their feet at The Broadmoor World Arena at a 5 p.m. rally on Feb. 20.

And they were eager to be swept.

”I love the man,” said Robert Nelson, who moved to Cañon City from Mississippi three years ago. “I want to see him personally. I voted for him last time, because my wife said so. This time, I want to vote for him because I want to.”

Nelson went on to emphasize that he’s a Christian, and he likes Trump’s attempt to restore prayer in public school classrooms. “We need to bring some values back into it,” he added.

Asked about Trump’s values, such as assaulting women and calling anyone who opposes him names, Nelson said Trump’s attacks are merely in response to being repeatedly criticized by others. He chalked up the assaults on women to stupid things that people do when they’re younger.

“I have to weigh the good things with the bad things.”

Bill Larkin wore his Trump mask. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Bill Larkin wore his Trump mask.

But Trump’s rallies are so inspiring, he noted, that a Democrat friend from the South told him she recently attended a Trump rally and said “she might be converted.”

Most of those streaming to the World Arena on Thursday were already converted.

A band of four teenagers from Arvada — all too young to vote — lavished praise on the president.

“We love Trump, because he gets what he wants done, like he cuts taxes, slowing down immigration and cutting trade deals,” one said. Sophie Colvard, too, expressed devotion to Trump because of the healthy economy and his opposition to abortion.

An adult with the group asked them, “And if you could vote, who would you vote for?”

All chimed, “Trump.”

The Trump campaign offers a marketing bonanza, on full display outside the arena.

Vendors hawked Trump gear, from hats to bumper stickers, and red stocking hats labeled “Trump 2020.” They were flying off the tables and onto heads, creating a sea of crimson as thousands queued up to enter the arena.

One vendor, who’s black, said he follows the Trump campaign to every rally and himself is pro-Trump. “Why not?” he said. “He’s the president. I don’t believe everything in the fake newspapers.” The vendor said he donates 20 percent of his take to the Trump re-election campaign.

Another vendor from Phoenix, Julian Conradson, said Trump’s his man. “He does what he’s promised in breaking up the corruption in Washington. He’s the greatest president we’ve ever had.”

Dozens carried clipboards and worked the crowd registering people to vote.

Two Colorado Springs women proclaimed, “We love Trump. We’re committed to him.” Why? Because of his tax cut that benefited mostly the wealthy, and because he supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As a backdrop to the pulsing crowd, which periodically broke into chants of “USA USA USA,” a billboard-sized screen broadcast programming generated by the Trump campaign in a talk-show format, with numerous people of color asserting how great Trump has been for minorities. Commentators also praised Trump for “empowering women” and preparing workers for the future through education grants and for commuting the prison sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, convicted in 1996 for her involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization and sentenced to life in prison. Trump commuted her sentence in 2018 and she was released, giving her a “second chance.”

The “hosts” also issued an announcement that if anyone detected a “protester,” they were not to touch them but to hold a Trump sign over their head and chant, “Trump Trump Trump” until security could “remove the protester.”

Several urged attendees to register to vote. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Several urged attendees to register to vote.

A retired couple from Guffey, Suzanne and Jim Montague, said they came because they “enjoy listening” to Trump speak.

“He’s there for the American people. He’s not there for himself or special interests,” Suzanne Montague said. “Everything he does is right. You might not see it right away, but you see it eventually.”

As most media lined up to enter the arena a full five hours before the president arrived, a three-person crew with Right Side Network, a conservative media company based in Alabama, set up a camera near the vendor booths.

One of the crew explained the company, which is viewer-funded, has three crews that rotate covering every Trump rally. They interview supporters and livestream his speeches. This particular crew would next head for Charlotte, North Carolina.

Two black men from Denver wore “I’m a Trumpster” caps and said they were excited to see him speak, though they’d seen him before and even gotten to shake his hand.

One of those men, Reggie Carr, runs an organization called I’m A Trumpster that wants to help Trump prevail in Colorado and elsewhere by attracting minority votes.

The website says, “We have just met the President at the World Congress Center In Atlanta, Ga. and he’s calling on All Minorities to step up and help him get reelected in 2020. And that’s exactly what I’m doing! In a big way!”

Many attendees gave testimonials similar to that of Stacy Lueckert of Colorado Springs. “We’re here because we love Trump and love America,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC was working to persuade Trump to declare Colorado home to U.S. Space Command, in conjunction with U.S. Space Force, which the president authorized in December and which is now located at Peterson Air Force Base.

The Chamber passed out T-shirts emblazoned with #usspaceCOm.

Two men conspicuously not wearing Trump gear circled the outside rim of the crowd. One wore a black stocking cap that said USSR. Asked if they were there to see Trump, they said they were working security. For whom? The government, one said.

Bill Larkin of Colorado Springs showed up at 6 a.m. on that “pretty chilly” day to see Trump for a third time. He attended rallies at the Norris-Penrose Events Center and at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2016.

Wearing a Trump mask, he praised Trump’s stances on prison reform, immigration and taxes. “When you come across the border illegally,” he said, “you broke the law.”

“He’s a citizen with power,” continued the telecommunications contractor. “He’s not a politician. He’s the average guy with power. It gets a little heady at times. I got a tax break I like.”

One man drove from Denver to “support the president,” adding, “They wouldn’t have it in Denver. Denver sucks.”

One man circulated handing out postcards urging people to “Join Caucus Room, Freedom’s Neighborhood,” which he described as a conservative version of the neighborhood site/app Nextdoor, but one that would “keep the Democrats out.”

A woman from Denver using a walker said she came to applaud Trump, “because it’s the first time in a long time we’ve had a president where I feel safe at night.”

Asked her thoughts on Trump’s mocking a reporter with a disability, she said, “I think he’s got a real quirky sense of humor. He’s used to knocking elbows with people in business conferences.”

Debby Bloch and Andy Skuntz of Colorado Springs, heading toward the throngs of supporters, came, too, to support the president. “We’re supporting the president that loves America,” Bloch said. “We love America,” Skuntz added. “His policies keep Americans safe and prosperous.”

Several miles away on south Nevada Avenue, Joshua Lindsey wasn’t feeling very prosperous. Standing outside Kum & Go convenience store with his guitar, bag and bicycle, Lindsey said he’s been homeless since 2014 and hasn’t worked a steady job in at least two years.

The 31-year-old considers himself more liberal than conservative, he said, and steers clear of politics, which he considers “all about the money.”

“I’m just not up on it,” he said. “I don’t vote.” 

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