Donald Trump was the last of the four main presidential candidates to visit the South Bend area ahead of the Indiana primary on May 3, but he drew the biggest crowds of both supporters and detractors.
About 7,500 people gathered in three rooms inside the Century Center to watch the Republican speak while a couple hundred lined up along St. Joseph Street to protest.
Deven Dosmann, 17, of Edwardsburg, Mich., was one of the thousands inside. He came to the rally with an American flag draped on his shoulders like a cape.
“[Trump] is a winner. I’m a winner. So I’m here. We’re alike,” he said, adding that he hoped Trump would improve the U.S. economy. “That’s something that hasn’t been here the last eight years of my life.”
Economic success was one of the several topics Trump touched on during his speech, which lasted about 48 minutes. Specifically, he focused on trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that he said destroyed the manufacturing industry in Indiana and around the country.
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And he said the Trans-Pacific Partnership “will make NAFTA look like a baby” in comparison.
“It’s just another way for other countries to suck the blood out of the United States,” he said.
If elected, Trump vowed to negotiate trade deals individually with foreign countries, which he said would ensure that those countries respected their partnerships with America.
The crowd cheered, clapped and yelled several times as Trump praised his endorsements from Bobby Knight, Lou Holtz and others, promised to “cherish the second amendment” and said he would stop Common Core.
And Trump repeated his famous campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it, and the crowd roared in overwhelming approval.
Trump encouraged the crowd to get others to vote, promising that he would focus on the general election if he wins Indiana in what is all but guaranteed to be a historic primary election for the Hoosier state on Tuesday.
“If we win in Indiana, it’s over with, folks. It’s over,” he said. “We then focus on Hillary (Clinton) and that’s gonna be fun.”
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Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the Century Center, many holding signs condemning Trump as racist, sexist and xenophobic. Others carried signs in support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The protesters lined up along St. Joseph Street while police officers separated them from vehicles driving along the street.
As the crowd left the Century Center after Trump’s rally ended, Trump supporters lined up on the opposite side of the street. The two sides yelled at each other and passing vehicles honked.
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Many protesters gathered around a young man playing bongo drums while a young woman freestyle rapped why she didn’t support Trump. Other protesters danced around them and some chanted ”USA! USA!“ and ”peace, love, unity“ into megaphones. Some shouted expletives.
The protest in South Bend dissipated within about an hour after the rally ended. Police moved the protesters to the sidewalk and then into a parking lot.
Before the crowd finally left, a protestor yelled one last time:
”I love you law enforcement. Thank you!”