EVANSVILLE, Ind., Aug. 30 (UPI) — President Donald Trump supporters flocked by the thousands to his rally in Evansville, Indiana on Thursday night.
The president spoke for more than an hour discussing a range of issues, including his support for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, jobs and immigration. He also brought up some familiar rally talking points, such as the media and his opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton.
During the rally, Trump took aim at Justice Department and FBI leadership after tweeting criticism of the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this week.
“The Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now,” Trump said. “People are angry. What’s happening is a disgrace. And at some point I wanted to stay out but at some point if it doesn’t straighten out.”
He went on to imply Clinton may face criminal charges, which prompted the crowd to respond with chants of “Lock her up!”
About midway through the rally, Trump brought Braun up to the podium, where he expressed his loyalty to the president.
“He needs a true ally, not somebody that says something when you’re in Indiana and does something differently when you’re in D.C.,” Braun said to applause from the crowd.
Trump then read aloud an article from the Indianapolis Star, describing a poll that named Braun’s opponent, Democrat Joe Donnelly, the least effective Democrat in the Senate.
“A vote for Mike’s opponent, Sleepy Joe, is a vote for Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and who else — Maxine Waters,” Trump said.
More than 10,000 of Trump’s supporters waited in line for hours to hear him speak before the Thursday night rally.
“I’ve never seen a president before,” said Don Schneider, 83, of Evansville, as he waded through the half-mile line to get in. “And I’m really excited to see this one.”
Like many of Trump’s supporters at Thursday’s rally, Schneider said he is a staunch Republican, and he supports Trump’s economic policies.
“I think the liberal cause has gone crazy,” Schneider said. “They want everything free, free college tuition, free everything. But nothing is free. Somebody’s got to pay for it.”
Schneider, a retired accountant, has been a Republican all his life. But in recent years he had grown dismayed by Republican politicians.
“Even conservatives were half way liberal,” Schneider said. “I’m old school, and I see where our country is going from where it came from. And it’s going down.”
Others at the rally echoed Schneider’s sentiments.
Sherri Flynn, a community college business professor from southern Indiana, said she supported Trump during his campaign, and continues to support him because of his foreign trade policies.
Trump has sought to renegotiate trade deals with Canada, Mexico, China, and other trade partners. He recently announced the United States and Mexico had reached a new agreement that would take the place of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and that he was optimistic Canada would join.
This was welcome news to Flynn, who said she teaches her business students about the negative trade balance that exists between the United States and its trade partners and how it harmed American businesses.
“I like (Trump’s) policies that support free enterprise, especially his policies on trade,” Flynn said. “I am very happy that it looks like Canada is going to join the new trade deal.”
During his speech Trump discussed the ongoing NAFTA negotiations with Canada and threatened to impose new automobile tariffs if a deal isn’t reached by Friday.
“If it doesn’t happen we’ll put tariffs on the cars coming in from Canada and that’ll be even better,” Trump said. “Because I’ll tell you what this country is tired of being ripped off by other countries.”
For many Trump supporters at Thursday’s rally, it is the president’s economic policies that they most agree with.
Several people said his tax breaks were directly responsible for increasing their take-home pay, and his pro-business stances have created new jobs in the region.
“His lowering taxes really helps us,” said Nicole Wink, from nearby Owensboro, Kentucky. “I work at a bank and we all got pay raises and the starting pay at the bank went up because of the tax cuts.”
Although large Trump protests were promised at the rally, there were few squabbles between protesters and supporters. The protesters were contained to an area near the event center.
The protests drew few hundred people. Protesters walked from a local church to the event center where the rally.
“His policies are all aimed to hurt the most vulnerable people,” said Jennifer Marx, an Evansville nurse who works with uninsured and homeless patients. “He’s taking away health insurance from the people who need it most. We see those people every day.”
Marx, a democrat who came to the protest with her sister, said she also disagrees with Trump’s immigration and trade policies.
Another protestor, Lisa Daugherty, who lives in nearby Newburgh, Indiana, came to speak out against Trump’s endorsement of religion during his presidency.
“Trump does not acknowledge that there are people in this country who do not believe in a god,” said Daughtery, who is the president of the Secular Student Alliance at the local community college. “And he gets people, mostly Christians, riled up that there will be violence against them if he’s not elected.”
The protesters, who were moved several times by local police officers, eventually gathered near the entrance of the event center, waving their signs and yelling anti-Trump chants.
Shortly after Trump took the stage the rally was interrupted by a protester who was drowned out by boos from the crowd as Trump stepped back and called for her to be escorted out of the venue.
“Where the hell did she come from?” Trump said. “And now tomorrow you’re going to read headlines, ‘Trump had protesters all over the place. ‘One person!’”
“I wish people would stop protesting him,” said Judy Elber, of Winslow, Indiana, as she waited in the line to get in. “I didn’t agree with Obama or Clinton, but I kept my mouth shut and respected the office. Whoever it is in office next, even if it’s not Trump, I will respect the office.”
Elber, who is wheelchair bound because she can’t afford knee surgery, was being pushed through the line of supporters by her daughter. She said she likes Trump’s support of military, and she hopes he will fix the healthcare system so she can afford to surgery on her knees.
Like other supporters, Elber could not think of anything on which she disagreed with the president.
Among his supporters, there were few criticisms of the president — save one.
“I’d like to see him get off Twitter,” said Cameron Meade, from Washington, Indiana, who supports Trump for his pro-law enforcement and pro-military stances. “I’d like to see him behave a little more professional.”
“Sometimes his Twitter is a little harsh,” said Terri Burton, who came to the rally from nearby Princeton, Indiana. “I love Twitter, but I think he should chill out a little bit.”
Burton and her husband say they are in lock step with many of the president’s policies on the economy, immigration, trade, and abortion, among others.
“Trump for 2020,” she said, with a big smile. “He’s our president!”
UPI news writer Daniel Uria contributed to this report