*This is an observational piece, please note that before reading*
I went to a Trump rally on Thursday, January 9th. It was in Toledo, Ohio, a straight-shot 45 minutes away from Findlay. I scheduled my tickets a few days in advance and would receive a few emails and texts from the Trump-Pence administration, sending me more information on the parking at the convention center and details of the rally in the meantime.
In the days leading up to the rally, I planned to leave at a leisurely three or 4 p.m., citing that we wouldn’t have needed that much time to wait. I read an article from 13ABC that said the Huntington Center expected an estimated 1,000 people would be in line 24 hours before the event. We ultimately left at 2 p.m. that day.
My friend and I entered Toledo around 3:15 p.m. and we didn’t have to worry about parking but we did have to worry about walking to and from the convention center so we didn’t get lost.
Down the street we walked to get to the convention center, multiple pride flags were hanging from lampposts and a very large pride mural across the side of a building. I checked my phone. I got a text from the Trump-Pence administration saying that doors opened at 3:00 p.m. and to emphasize, “get there early!” We walked faster.
As we got closer to the Huntington Center, there were more Trump merchandise vendors. Hats, scarves, gloves, socks, buttons, flags, even cereal was being sold to rallygoers.
The line was like a long snake, slicked around the corners of multiple buildings and stretched down what felt like several blocks.
Walking. Walking. Walking.
By the time we made it to the end of the line, we were running just so we could secure some spots.
As we inched through the line, my friend and I chatted idly about whether Columbus would be busier than Toledo if the rally was held there.
“Are you two from Columbus?” a man in front of us heard our conversation. No, we shook our heads.
He pointed to his hat. He was from Columbus and he wouldn’t wear his hat down there. It was a gray MAGA ball cap with an American flag.
Next to us, an anchorwoman waited for her cameraman to prepare the shot. Another man wearing an American flag poncho sweater in front of us stepped out of his spot to hold a Trump cereal box in front of her like he was on camera. She said she hadn’t seen that. He shook the box and asked her to hold it.
“Can we not do that now?” She asked. It was more of a statement. He left her alone.
It was 5 p.m. by the time we made it close to the entrance of the Huntington Center. The soundtrack playing from the loudspeakers included a lot of Michael Jackson.
Start moving. Stop for the Pledge of Allegiance. Start moving.
Every time we moved down the line we would pass the protestors behind the police. Holding signs like: “Make America Union Again,” and “We Vape, We Vote,” and “THIS IS VERY BAD,” the protestors would be there until after the speech ended.
It was around 6 p.m. and dark by the time we reached the entrance. We didn’t even need our tickets to get inside. My friend mentioned there was no one else coming from the line. I looked back. The area was empty. It looked like we were the last ones to be let into the building.
Once inside, we scrambled to find as close of seats as possible. Although unsuccessful, we were still able to see the tiny figures of Pence and Trump when they arrived at the stage.
Trump’s speech was a little over an hour and a half, starting at 7:15 p.m. and ending a bit before 9 p.m. Covering topics of South Korea and Japan deals, health insurance, “7 million brand new” jobs since his election, mentioning the tank plants in Lima, Ohio (and subsequently asking if anyone in the crowd was from Lima. I didn’t raise my hand), the green new deal and Soleimani, Trump spoke on a variety of topics that his crowd felt strongly about.
We were alerted to the end of the speech by groups of people getting up from their seats and leaving before Trump was finished speaking. We left the building slightly before the end of his speech to avoid the crowds that were inside and outside the convention center. We did catch the end of Trump’s speech, though, and we ran out of the crowds.
The articles I read prepared me somewhat for the events of the rally but the experience was unique in that Trump is a president of great social controversy.