SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - Thousands of people converged in Sunrise to hear President Donald Trump speak, as dozens outside the venue came together to protest the campaign rally.
The “Keep America Great” rally kicked off at the BB&T Center, at around 7 p.m., Tuesday.
The commander in chief walked onstage to raucous applause from the audience after Vice President Mike Pence introduced him, just before 7:30 p.m.
Trump’s speech, which lasted nearly an hour and a half, covered a wide array of topics, ranging from the economy to health care and the ongoing impeachment hearings.
“Americans have so much to be thankful for. The economy is booming, wages are on the rise, crime is falling, poverty is plummeting,” he said. “The bloodthirsty savage known as [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi is dead finally.”
It did not take long for Trump to bring up the issue overshadowing his administration: the delay to aid Ukraine, allegedly in exchange for a public declaration of a probe of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
“Impeachment! This of this: impeachment. A witch hunt, the same as before,” said Trump to loud boos from the audience, “and they’re pushing that impeachment witch hunt, and a lot of bad things are happening to them, because so you see what’s happening in the polls? Everybody said, ‘That’s really [expletive].”
Trump then shifted his focus to the Russia investigation concerning the 2016 general election.
“The radical Democrats are trying to overturn the last election because they know that they cannot win the next election. It’s very simple,” he said.
He also defended the pardon of two U.S. soldiers accused of war crimes and intervening in the controversy surrounding Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who was demoted after posting a picture with a corpse.
“I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state,” said Trump.
The president pointed to the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
“[He asked me], ‘What do you want from Ukraine?’ I said, ‘I want nothing.’ This is a quote: ‘I want no quid pro quo. I want nothing,'” said Trump. “‘Tell President Zelenskiy to do the right thing, to do what he ran on.'”
Sondland also said, however, that conversation came after the whistleblower complaint into the matter had already been filed.
During his address, Trump brought Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis onstage. He was greeted with loud sustained cheers.
“He’s a great guy, he’s a tough guy,” Trump said about DeSantis.
But the line that got some of the night’s biggest cheers was when Trump said, “America will never be a socialist country, ever.”
About three hours before the rally got underway, 7News cameras captured a long line outside of the venue, as a steady stream of attendees filed past the parking lot and headed toward the entrance.
Supporters anxiously awaited the chance to see Trump in person, praising his time, so far, in office.
“The man of my dreams is speaking tonight, the best president we’ve ever had,” said a woman wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.
Several supporters were seen camping nearby, some of them as early as 4 a.m.
“I’m not a morning person, and there’s only one person that would get me up at this hour of the day, and it would be President Trump,” said one supporter.
Some of those attending come from across various parts of South Florida, including Miami, Boca Raton and Deerfield Beach.
“This is the first rally I’ve ever been to,” attendee Manuel Vazquez said. “I’m just here to support the president. I think he’s doing a great job.”
Others traveled thousands of miles to attend the rally, like one man who came from Wyoming.
“[It’s my] sixth rally this year,” he said.
“It’s the idea. It’s the principle behind the man, expressed truthfulness and expressed what he wants to do for this country,” said another supporter.
“The rallies are a huge success because, in numbers, [they draw] the people that really appreciate the work that this guy has done, the sacrifices he’s made,” said a supporter.
A band played live music on a stage set up outside of the stadium to entertain the crowd hours before the event.
“I watch all of these rallies on TV, and I’m just honored to be here and to see him live,” Deerfield Beach resident Cheryl Revell added.
“This is America. That’s what we do, we vote for who we want,” said another rally attendee. “Apparently, more people want the president than don’t.”
“The failed Washington establishment is trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you and because we’re winning,” said Trump during his speech.
Volunteers worked all day trying to register people to vote.
“It’s my first year I can vote. I just turned 18, so I’m very excited for that,” said a young rally attendee.
“The crazy Democrats are going down in a landslide, and that landslide is going to start right here in the great state of Florida,” said Trump during his speech.
This is a homecoming rally for Trump, who recently changed his primary residence from New York to Florida.
“I think he’s going to win in a landslide, after the ridiculous charade of his impeachment hearing,” said one supporter.
“I love the president. We’re living history, and you don’t always realize it when you’re living history, but we’re living history,” said another supporter.
Meanwhile, a crowd of protesters gathered in the parking lot for what organizers described as “an official unwelcoming speaking rally.”
“To send a message to, especially the people that still support Trump, that he is not for this country, and he’s destroying our democracy,” said a demonstrator.
7News cameras captured a large Baby Trump balloon flying above the parking lot. Just after 6 p.m., protesters were seen holding up signs and small Baby Trump balloons.
“My opinion is that nobody is above the law. Republicans, Democrats, nobody is above the law,” said a demonstrator. “If you commit a crime, and if you sell out the American worker, you should be locked up.”
Several leaders, including members of the Florida Democratic Party and other coalitions, demanded what they called “honesty and action from the government” in the removal of the president.
“In this county, in a year from now, we will make it very clear how Floridians and how Broward County feels about Donald Trump and what he’s done to our country and how he’s undermined our democracy,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., “how he has abused his power and essentially turned the White House into a corrupt den.”
The event brought heavy traffic and road closures to the area.
Florida Highway Patrol said a restriction was set in place against tractor-trailers, box trucks and panel vans traveling along the Sawgrass Expressway near the arena.
The Sunrise Park & Ride for the 595 and 95 Express buses were relocated to the Orange Garage at Sawgrass Mills Mall.
After the rally wrapped up, Trump supporter Fredda Ioia said she the president’s speech left her feeling hopeful for the country’s future.
“He really said some really good things about America and his plans for the next five years, because he has one more, and then we’re going to vote him in in 2020,” she said.
Trump will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort. His next rally is set for Dec. 10 at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
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