The cheers of the capacity audience often drowned out the speakers.
On Monday afternoon, the line to enter the Donald Trump rally in Ambridge, a small town near Pittsburgh, stretched for blocks. The rally was held in the field house of the Ambridge Area High School.
Before the speech, protesters stood on the other side of the street chanting, “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away.” Several young women held signs that read, “Students against bigotry.”
James Thomas Finley was visiting Ambridge, and watched from a nearby porch. He said he can’t believe Donald Trump is running for president.
“Donald Trump? Have you listened to the nonsense that this man splurts out of his mouth daily? He calls people names, he’s disrespectful. Plus he’s an idiot.” He motioned to the people waiting in line. “And he’s taking these fools down to — look at them. It’s just like leading them to the slaughterhouse.”
Finley was part of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, when he was a student at Howard University. He said while racism has always existed in the United States, this election has allowed people to feel comfortable being vocal about it. As Finley spoke, a man on a motorcycle revved his engine to drown out the chants of the protesters. He pointed at them and revved it over and over, cupping his hand behind his ear.
“This is what’s frightening right here,” Finley shouted over the sound. “That’s America,” he said, disallowing disagreement.
In line, people talked about the videotapes that showed Trump making lewd comments about women. Supporter Dan Flynn said both candidates had displayed inappropriate behaviors, but it was time to move on. And he said Trump would create jobs.
“At this point, this is about the country and which of the two can best move the country forward in a productive way.”
Speaking to more than 2,000 people, while more stood outside, Trump said he wasn’t proud of all of his actions — but who is? he added — but that he was very proud of one thing.
“I’ve always treated the blue collar worker — and I consider myself in a certain way to be a blue collar worker — that make this country run, with tremendous respect. The waiters and waitresses, the cops and firefighters, the receptionists, and the custodians. We treat them with dignity and respect. These are great people.”
Then he returned to his main message: that he would make Pennsylvania great again.
“Pennsylvania steel will build our future and Pennsylvania energy — our miners, we’re bringing our miners back — will power our future,” he said.
Throughout the event, the crowd waved pompoms, pounded the bleachers, and yelled their approval. They cheered louder still when Trump talked about the issue of the emails Hillary Clinton’s erased, and how he would bring steel, coal, and manufacturing jobs back to Pennsylvania.
“A Trump administration will completely renegotiate NAFTA. Or we will walk away and make a brand new deal that’s far better, where businesses actually start coming to Pennsylvania and to Ohio.”
Both in line and in the field house, people talked about how much Trump cares. “He has a plan for everything,” said Joy Snyder. But it also seemed more personal than that. Trump cares about her, said Snyder. “We love Mr. Trump. He loves us. He’s just what we need right now.”
GOP Rep. Mike Kelly took the stage before Trump, and put it differently.
“This election is about the little guy,” said Kelly. “When was the last time anyone running for president came to Ambridge? They can’t stand in front of you because they let you down.”
The crowd roared.