Trump rolls into Lowell to scold and cajole
By Evan Lips | January 5, 2016, 1:07 EST
LOWELL — Frigid temperatures and a slow-moving security checkpoint line snaking its way across several city blocks could not deter supporters of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate who rode into the Mill City on Monday night to regale those who packed into the Tsongas Center arena.
Strutting to the stage amid a raucous din of cheers and the strains of the metal band Twisted Sister’s anthem, “We’re Not Going to Take It,” Trump praised the 7,300-plus who braved the cold to fill the stands while also chiding the assembled throng of media.
“I wish those cameras would show the crowd but they won’t do that,” Trump said. “Folks we have a revolution going on.”
The Trump revolution, however, has also managed to attract a healthy number of anti-Trump protesters. In the arena, critics repeatedly interrupted the billionaire Manhattanite with a smattering of “Black lives matter” chants and a solitary cheer for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont. But they were quickly drowned out by Trump fans as the GOP front runner sounded the core themes of his campaign — an anti-establishment message that has galvanized his supporters.
“Bye-bye,” Trump said, with a wave of his hand, as the first set of protesters found themselves being escorted out of the building by police. “Isn’t this more fun than another regular boring rally?”
During another interruption, Trump also lambasted the protesters for creating distractions.
“We have thousands of people here and tomorrow the headlines will be all about the protesters,” Trump declared to the crowd. “They do it purposely.”
Trump also used the interruptions to take a jab at Sanders, who during an August campaign stop in Seattle turned over the podium to a group of Black Lives Matter protesters.
“That scene when he lost control of his mic was pathetic,” Trump said about the self-declared democratic socialist. “This is what we have leading our country.”
The loudest cheers came when Trump reiterated several of his most ambitious campaign promises: to build a wall along the Mexican-American border, to halt the flow of Syrian refugees into the U.S. and to overturn the 2010 Affordable Care Act that created what is widely known as Obamacare.
Trump also touched on the region’s epidemic of drug overdoses from heroin and synthetic opiates.
“Up in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, you have a tremendous problem with drugs and you know where much of that’s coming from,” he said. “You know where that stuff is coming from — they’re not going to be sending it over so easy anymore folks.”
“I come up to New Hampshire and I come up to Massachusetts, the first or second question I get is about heroin, and we’re going to put an end to it to a large extent.”
At the beginning of his speech, Trump focused on the Iran nuclear deal, faulting one of its architects, Secretary of State John Kerry, the former Senator from Massachusetts.
“Kerry has no idea what the hell he’s doing,” he told the crowd. “I blame you. He comes from the area. I have to blame you.”
Trump also touched on another local figure, Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ star quarterback. He singled out a supporter in the crowd wearing a shirt matching up Trump with Brady. The shirt had ‘For the Win!’ emblazoned on the back.
Trump later acknowledged his affinity for paying close attention to presidential polls. The latest Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll, released last month, had Trump leading in the Granite State with 26 percent of likely GOP primary voters supporting him — about 14 points ahead of Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, his closest rivals.
“You’ll know I’m number two if I ever stop talking about the polls,” he joked at one point.
Trump also took a few swipes at other Republican candidates, singling out former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his stance on immigration issues. Trump, who has said he would deport all illegal immigrants if elected president, needled Bush for likening illegal immigration to “an act of love” in remarks he made in April 2014.
The event was also noteworthy for what Trump didn’t talk about. He declined to mention President Barack Obama’s move to close the so-called “gun show loophole” that lets people buy guns without submitting to background checks through an executive order. Trump also declined to go after former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned for his wife, Hillary, at events in Nashua and Exeter, New Hampshire, on Monday. Trump recently said criticisms of Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs are “fair game” after Hillary Clinton faulted him for having a “penchant for sexism.” Trump faulted her as an “enabler” for her husband’s infidelities.
Before Trump took the stage, a large contingent of anti-Trump protesters assembled near the main road leading to the Tsongas Center, in what police described as a “free-speech zone.” The cordoned-off sliver of land held roughly 100 protesters who led chants while a line of people waited across the street to get into the event.
The peaceful protests spawned colorful volleys of barbs between the two groups.
Waiting in line, Steve and Mary from North Andover, who wouldn’t provide their last names, said the number of other people waiting in the frigid cold on a Monday night to attend a political rally amazed them.
“We came to see what the Trump phenomenon is all about,” Steve said. “We’re shocked by the turnout.”
Trump’s popularity has sparked a “fascination” in their circle of friends, they said. While they see some of Trump’s bombastic comments on immigration and other subjects as off-putting, the candidate “has drawn attention to topics other candidates prefer to avoid.”
Inside the arena, Trump spoke for roughly an hour before calling it a night. He briefly touched on his first television commercial but only to distinguish his campaign from Bush’s.
“Isn’t it sad that he’s spent $59 million while I have spent basically nothing,” said Trump, a former reality TV star.
He concluded his remarks with a critique of Obama.
“One thing I thought he’d be — at a minimum — I thought he’d be a great cheerleader,” Trump said about the president. “And he’s been a great divider.
“It’s a divided country. It’s a country with so much hate.”