Republican front-runner Donald Trump swaggered into Arizona again Saturday, repeating his promises to build a border wall, renegotiate U.S. trade deals and generally “make America great again.”
Wearing a blue jacket and red golf hat as he addressed the thousands gathered in Fountain Hills Park, Trump made a final pitch ahead of Arizona’s presidential primary on Tuesday.
“Go out on Tuesday and vote. I will never let you down,” he told the crowd, which had waited for hours in warm sunshine. He referred to them as a “loud, noisy majority.”
Trump was joined on stage by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Gov. Jan Brewer and Treasurer Jeff DeWit. Former Arizona lawmaker and 9/11 “truther” Karen Johnson prayed to open the event.
Trump’s arrival was delayed by protesters who blockaded one of the main traffic arteries into Fountain Hills. And he was in a fighting mood as he deployed his signature name-calling.
He ripped not only “Lyin’ Ted” – his closest Republican rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – but also “Little Marco” Rubio, a Florida senator and former rival who has exited the race, and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a political antagonist whom Trump dismissed as a “total stiff” and “a loser.”
Trump’s angry tone endured throughout his shorter-than-usual 30-minute speech, which also focused on immigration-related themes.
“I want to tell you so much about illegal immigration, and so much has been mentioned about it and talked about it,” Trump said. “And these politicians are all talk, no action, they’re never going to do anything. They only picked it up because when I went and when I announced I’m running for president, I said, ‘you know, this country has a big, big problem with illegal immigration.’ And all of a sudden, we started talking about it and then had lots of bad things happening. Crime all over the place and for the first time people saw what was going on.”
Trump’s rallies have consistently been targets of protesters who oppose his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and his hard-line positions on immigration and rhetoric, such as when he called Mexican immigrants drug runners and rapists.
At times during Trump’s speech, protesters, who stood in a fenced area of the park, chanted in competition with supporters.
Early in Trump’s speech, a protester scuffled with supporters after he unfurled a banner reading, “Vets to Trump: End hate speech against Muslims.” Two Trump supporters slapped down the banner and the man was quickly escorted from the rally.
But it was the protesters who succeeded in closing the main route into Fountain Hills before the event who became the focus of cable news networks.
As helicopters broadcast aerial images of the blockade and traffic backed up on Shea Boulevard, law enforcement issued a warning to the protesters: Leave or be arrested. The crowd dissipated at about 10:30 a.m. and headed toward the rally on foot, arriving at the park at about the time Trump arrived.