President Donald Trump Holds Rally In Phoenix To Packed Crowd

By Christina Estes, Ben Giles, Jimmy Jenkins, Tim Agne, Matthew Casey, Scott Bourque, Michel Marizco, Chad Snow
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 10:43am
Updated: Friday, May 1, 2020 - 12:41pm

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Supporters of President Donald Trump headed out to the Arizona State Fairgrounds for a rally on Wednesday night.

See updates from KJZZ reporters who were inside and outside Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

11:31 p.m.: A Couple Hundred Protesters Gathered

A couple hundred protesters gathered across the street from the Arizona State Fairgrounds where President Trump held a rally Wednesday night. But most of the space that police set up for people to air their grievances went unoccupied.

The bulk of protesters got to the event about an hour before Trump was scheduled to speak inside the Coliseum.

Protester Philip Rubianes thought the night might become a repeat of 2017, when police and protesters clashed after a Trump rally. Instead, he says heavy security helped keep things calm.

"It felt very restricted. Yeah, they have this bar, this gate up. There’s police on the roof there that have been watching us the whole time," said Rubianes.

Rubianes is a college student with a laundry list of reasons for opposing the president. He plans to cast his first ever presidential ballot this year for Bernie Sanders.

— Matthew Casey

10:37 p.m.: Trump Shares Stage With Arizona Republicans

President Donald Trump
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Sen. Martha McSally speaks at the Phoenix rally for President Donald Trump on Feb. 19, 2020.

More than 10,000 people gathered at a rally for President Trump at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum Wednesday night. Trump shared the stage with Republican politicians who are hoping to ride his coattails to victory in the fall.

“It’s great being here in the great state of Arizona with thousands of hard-working patriots who believe in God, family, and country.”

President Trump addressed a packed house full of supporters, many of whom had been waiting all day to see him.

Trump touted economic conditions that he called a great American comeback and gave specific praise to Sen. Martha McSally.

“You know, Martha is tough on the border and she’s working with me to strengthen our military further and lower your prescription drug prices and we’re making a lot of progress," said Trump.

“He also attacked her potential Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly.

“ “Even the Democrats don’t like him much. He wants to raise your taxes, open your borders, give away free health care to illegal immigrants and he wants to obliterate your 2nd Amendment. He wants to get rid of it.”

Trump called McSally a warrior and pledged his complete and total support to her campaign, saying he would return to Arizona several times before the November election.

— Jimmy Jenkins

9:02 p.m.: Some Attendees Head Out Early

Robert Barker
Tim Agne/KJZZ
Robert Barker of Anthem talks to KJZZ's Ben Giles on his way out of the Trump rally in Phoenix on Feb. 19, 2020.

About an hour before President Trump wrapped up his speech, a steady stream of supporters began pouring out of Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Many, like Robert Barker, had waited most of the day to get into the stadium and were simply ready to beat the traffic.

“I’ve got to drive up to Anthem. And I’m 83 and I don’t want to get out and wrassle with all the young people.”

Barker said the five-hour wait just to get inside was worth it to attend Trump’s rally.

“I had a blast. It was the cheapest thing you could do for an old fart. I just had more damn fun just listening."

Trump spent part of his speech praising Republican loyalists in Congress and backing GOP candidates running for election alongside him in November. He wrapped up his speech just before 9 p.m.

— Ben Giles

8:31 p.m.: Trump Says He'll Be Back In Phoenix

President Donald Trump
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
President Donald Trump speaks at the Phoenix rally on Feb. 19, 2020.

President Trump indicated Wednesday during his Phoenix rally that he could be making numerous trips to the Grand Canyon State leading up to the November election.

“Thank you very much, Phoenix. We love to be back. We’ll be back a lot. We’re gonna win that election. Thank you very much," said Trump.

He expressed vindication in the wake of his impeachment trial, and stated his case for re-election — predicting a landslide victory.

“And while the extreme left has been wasting America’s time with the hoaxes, we’ve been killing terrorists, creating jobs, raising wages, enacting fair-trade deals, securing our border and lifting up citizens of every race, color, religion and creed.”

The president then introduced several Arizona Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey and Sen. Martha McSally.

— Chad Snow

7:30 p.m.: Trump Takes The Stage

7:05 p.m.: Watch Party Outside

7:00 p.m.: Activist Groups Protest

There were few people protesting President Trump outside the Arizona State Fairgrounds until about 6 p.m. Then the numbers jumped with the arrival of activist groups like Puente about an hour before speech time.

Luis Prado says he joined the protesters because he doesn’t like what Trump stands for.

"I don't know, I can’t do four more years of this, basically. I want something different. You know?"

Police set up a so-called "free speech zone" for protesters on the north side of Encanto Boulevard across from the fairgrounds.

— Matthew Casey

6:38 p.m.: Arizona Republicans Collecting Signatures

State Sen. David Farnsworth
Tim Agne/KJZZ
State Sen. David Farnsworth talks with KJZZ reporter Ben Giles on Feb. 19, 2020. Farnsworth was collecting signatures to qualify for the Corporation Commission ballot.

For some Arizona Republicans, a Trump rally isn’t just an opportunity to see the president.

Several would-be candidates and their volunteers were outside Veterans Memorial Coliseum in search of Arizona voters to sign their nominating petitions.

State Sen. David Farnsworth, who’s collecting signatures to run for the corporation commission, called Trump’s rally a “lifesaver.”

"Yeah, I was kinda running out of steam there, looking at the deadline saying, ‘I don’t know whether we’re going to make this or not.’ So, the Trump rally has been a real nice thing."

The Arizona Legislature voted last year to move up the primary date by three weeks. This year, that’s Aug. 4.

That means candidates like Farnsworth must turn in those signatures by April 6.

— Ben Giles

6:26 p.m.: Event Reaches Capacity

We don’t know specific number of people inside because the Trump campaign did not share number they expected. We do know max is 14,000 depending on configuration per state fairgrounds which then directed us to campaign.

— Christina Estes

6:18 p.m.: Speakers Begin To Take The Stage

6:05 p.m.: President Trump Lands In Phoenix

Air Force One landing
Jean Clare Sarmiento/KJZZ
Air Force One as seen from Tempe on Feb. 19, 2020.

Air Force One landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport around 6 p.m. President Trump is expected to take the stage at his "Keep America Great" rally around 7 p.m.

Trump is expected to fly to Las Vegas following the rally.

6 p.m.: 2-Hour Lines At Security

6 p.m.: Protesters March Down 19th Avenue

5:20 p.m.: 'This Is Like Wrestlemania'

Trump reporters enter the Arizona State Fairgrounds
Tim Agne/KJZZ
Trump reporters enter the Arizona State Fairgrounds on Feb. 19, 2020.

Trump supporters have been waiting in line for hours to hear the president at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

California resident Carl Baldwin said he happened to be in Phoenix at the same time as Trump’s visit. He’s been waiting in line for over two hours and still has to get through security before entering the stadium. But he’s sure it’ll be worth the wait.

“I just think it’s entertainment. This is like Wrestlemania. This is like the WWE. We’re just here for the show, and it’s free, you know.”

— Ben Giles

4:30 p.m.: Event Organizers Expect A Packed House

Supporters were already camping in line Tuesday night to make sure they got a seat in the Coliseum on Wednesday evening. The venue seats 14,000 people, and event organizers say they are expecting a packed house. Supporters that already made their way inside have been chanting for "Four more years" and heckling the press. 

Monica George is a Trump supporter from Phoenix. She was unable to get inside the last Trump rally in Arizona so today she showed up at the Coliseum at 10 a.m. George says illegal immigration is the most important issue for her:

"I don't believe in it. My parents came here legally. Everybody should come in legally. Wait their turn. It's like cutting in line. Don't like it. That's why I'm here," George said.

The president is scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m.

— Jimmy Jenkins

10:30 a.m.: Thousands Now Lined Up For President Trump's Rally

Christina Estes/KJZZ
Gina Mercado

People have been lining up outside the Veteran’s Memorial Colosseum near 19th Avenue and McDowell Road. Gina Mercado got a babysitter so she could see the president.

— Christina Estes

9:09 a.m.: Hundreds Already Lined Up For President Trump's Rally

Christina Estes/KJZZ

STEVE GOLDSTEIN: President Trump is holding a rally in Phoenix today and his supporters are ready. Folks were lining up at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum more than 24 hours before the president is even scheduled to take the stage. And KJZZ is Christina Estes is there now. Christina, did you get a good space on line there?

CHRISTINA ESTES: Well, I'm kind of close to the port-a-potties. Is that a good space? (Laughs.)

 GOLDSTEIN: So describe the atmosphere. When you get people like that her out there that early, what are they thinking about?

 ESTES: Well, they are really excited. Probably our great Arizona weather helps. I've seen really a steady flow of people coming inside for probably the last hour. I talked to a guy who drove this morning from Tucson. He said he watched the president's 2017 rally in Phoenix at home on TV, and he said, "Next time I'm going to be there." So he's here. He says this is a historic opportunity, you know, to see a president.

 BRODIE: So, Christina, you've obviously had a chance to talk to some folks this morning. What kind of stuff are they telling you?

 ESTES: Well, they say they are all in for Trump. It seems that some of the things that really annoy his opponents are what many of his supporters just love: that he's blunt, that he talks tough. I spoke with Jill Millette. She came from San Diego with her daughter. She's 82 and says this is the first time she's ever been politically involved.

Christina Estes/KJZZ
Jill Millette

 JILL MILLETTE: We love Trump.

 ESTES: What is it about him you love?

MILLETTE: We love his honesty. We love even when he gets a little off track. He makes us laugh. I think he's doing more for this country than any president that I remember.

GOLDSTEIN: All right, Christina, that is one of the supporters. But clearly protesters are brought out by this president. Have you seen some of them? And what are they say?

ESTES: Well, you know, when I arrived around 7:30, I didn't see any. And I probably went from my exact vantage point because they are being directed to an area outside the coliseum, just north of Encanto Road between 17th and 19th avenues. So there's Encanto Road and then a huge parking lot that will separate opponents or demonstrators from Trump supporters. But we do know that people are planning to come out. So we will be here all day and all night. So keep it on KJZZ, and we'll keep you posted.

BRODIE: Now Christina, obviously, we have quite a bit of time before the president speaks. I'm not going to ask what you're doing to pass the time.

ESTES: I'm hoping to avoid the port-a-potties. (Laughs.)

BRODIE: You don't want to get in trouble at the bosses, but what are folks who are lined up excited to hear the president? What are they doing to pass the time? It's still several hours.

ESTES: Yeah, well, they're sharing stories: "Hey, where are you from, and why did you come?" That's sort of sort of the questions that I'm asking. They're also watching this really huge screen that's broadcasting campaign videos and interviews and shows that the hosts, which are a couple of President Trump's family members, say that they are broadcasting from Trump studios. Sort of an interesting note is there was a lot of people right outside the State Fairground where the coliseum is located selling stuff. And then you come inside, one of the ... ongoing periodic sort of commercials, I guess, or ads playing on that big screen, is encouraging people to use a very specific website to buy Trump-approved merchandise. So that's a little interesting piece of information. I don't know if that's going to affect sort of the entrepreneurs I'm seeing outside, but I'll talk with them a little bit later and see how businesses for them,.

BRODIE: It's nice people can get a little shopping done while they're waiting. Christina, do you do you have a sense of how many people are there already?

ESTES: I'm not going to get in the numbers game, but I can safely say hundreds. What I can tell you about how many will fit in the coliseum is, according to the state fairgrounds, who, of course, owns the coliseum, depending on how it's configured, you can get 14,000 inside the coliseum. No one from the Trump campaign responded to our question about how many tickets they were giving out or how many people they expected. I do know that public safety are expecting about 20,000. And that also includes, you know, people selling stuff outside and demonstrators and all of that. So that's sort of what they're planning for it.

GOLDSTEIN: All right. KJZZ Christina Estes plans to be at the President Trump rally most of the day. Christina, good luck and thanks.

ESTES: You're welcome.

8 p.m., Tuesday: Trump Campers Arrive Early To Rally For Prime Seats, Camaraderie

San Diego resident Blake Marnell
Ben Giles/KJZZ
San Diego resident Blake Marnell has traveled across the country to attend President Trump's rallies, and arrived more than a day in advance to camp out with fellow Trump supports ahead of the president's Wednesday address.

Blake Marnell spent Monday driving from his home in San Diego to Phoenix.

Early Tuesday morning, he was back in his car scoping out the Arizona State Fairgrounds, where President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a rally Wednesday evening.

“I just kind’ve waited in my car for one other person to show up,” Marnell said. “It just happened to be Mario, who I met at a rally in Albuquerque, so then we had two people. That’s when the line started.”

That was shortly before 8 a.m., roughly 35 hours before the president is scheduled to speak to supporters at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Mario Estrada, a fellow Californian, was first in line, beating Marnell by a mere 10 minutes. A Phoenix rally is advantageous for a Trump supporter from California, a state not considered friendly to the president.

“This is my second Trump rally. I came because I like to flex my First Amendment, which is my freedom of expression,” Estrada said. “I wear braids in my hair, heels on my feet. I’m as ostentatious as I am personable, and I like to flex that.”

Estrada and Marnell said they also come for the camaraderie. Seeing Trump speak is great, but so is spending a day or more camped on a sidewalk with fellow Trump supporters.

It makes camping overnight on Phoenix streets worth it, Estrada said.

“We’ve become like a family, and this camaraderie is worth everything. Every travel time, that’s what it’s all about, and it shows the best in America,” he said.

— Ben Giles

Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ

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