Last updated on January 17th, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump came to downtown Milwaukee Tuesday night to hear the president campaign for re-election, focusing his remarks more on national security and the U.S. economy than on local issues.
Trump’s second ‘Keep America Great’ rally of 2020 filled the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena to its 12,700-person capacity, and left hundreds of additional supporters outside to watch the event on a large video screen. The president’s supporters started lining up hours before doors opened at the arena. Some camped out overnight.
Trump opened his speech by recalling his crucial victory in Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election, saying he has since “produced everything we said and more.”
He touted recent international trade agreements including the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, as well as phase one of a deal with China, which he signed today, “massively boosting exports of products made and produced right here in the great state of Wisconsin.”
The state’s agriculture and manufacturing industries have been hit hard over the past two years by tariffs and trade disputes with China and other countries, but the campaign is using the trade issue to its advantage saying the president’s trade wars are resulting in better trade deals for the U.S. and will be beneficial in the long run.
“Farmers are long-term planners and long-term goal-setters when it comes to not only their products, but how they get it out to market, so they should feel good about having President Trump step up to bat for them,” said Trump campaign deputy communications director Erin Perrine in an interview with BizTimes Milwaukee. “This is a president who has fought that long-term game over these last few years, and the results are coming along now, and that’s just in the first 3 years.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention the upcoming 2020 Democratic National Convention, taking place in Milwaukee this summer.
Perrine said the campaign is “not afraid” to hold rallies in battleground states or blue cities like Milwaukee. She said that Trump has a greater chance of winning over split-ticket voters and said that an average of 20% of Trump rally attendees vote democrat.
“This fuels the campaign,” she said.
Trump spent portions of his speech criticizing democrats and some of the party’s 2020 presidential candidates including Joe Biden, who he called “sleepy Joe,” Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
“If you want to keep America safe, just vote Republican. We’re doing so well,” he said.
The rally was briefly interrupted three times by protesters, who appeared to be alone or in a small group. Trump responded each time by saying “get them out of here,” and security personnel quickly escorted the protesters out of the seating bowl.
While Trump energized his base inside the arena, a contingent of anti-Trump protesters numbering in the hundreds displayed an equal amount of fervor on the outside.
A group of protesters first met at Red Arrow Park where they heard from members of the “Coalition to March on the DNC,” which brands itself as a “broad national coalition of left and progressive forces, rallying behind popular demands at the 2020 Democratic National Convention,” according to the coalition’s website.
After hearing several remarks from coalition leaders, the demonstrators marched down East Kilbourn Avenue towards the Panther Arena and gathered at the intersection of West Kilbourn Avenue and Vel R. Phillips Avenue.
As they congregated at the intersection, the demonstrators were met with little resistance other than metal barricades, which kept the group several hundred feet away from the entrance of the Panther arena.
Less than half a block away, hundreds of Trump supporters, who were not able to get inside the arena, watched the rally on a large video screen that was set up in a parking lot immediately across from the arena.
Anti-Trump demonstrators eventually made their way to that parking lot where the two groups began to quarrel, although confrontations amounted to no more than verbal altercations. Milwaukee Police officers and Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies, wearing riot gear, soon arrived and divided the two groups.
— BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Brandon Anderegg contributed to this report.