Written by The Business Journal Staff
“We’re going to bring this country back,” Trump roared to a crowd roughly estimated at about 6,000, who came to Selland Arena wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ ball caps and waving ‘Farmers for Trump’ placards. More than two dozen vendors hawked Trump-branded merchandise outside the arena.
Trump started off by saying he “knows Fresno well” — a reference to his one-time involvement in the failed Running Horse project. “I was going to do a beautiful job,” he said.
In a rambling, hour-long speech during which he was interrupted several times by protestors, Trump promised that if he is elected president, he will come to the aid of Valley farmers. “We’re going to start opening up the water so you can have your farms survive,” he said.
Trump also vowed to build up the nation’s defense capabilities, get tough on trade with countries like China and South Korea, support both fossil (coal) and green (solar) energy and get long-dormant U.S. factories humming again.
He also repeated his promise to build a wall along the country’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it. “We’ve got to stop illegal immigration,” he said.
Interrupted at one point by a dozen protestors holding a banner reading ‘Love Your Neighbor,’ Trump mocked the group and hollered, “Get ‘em out of here.”
Acknowledging the fact that just the day before, he had finally captured enough delegates to secure his nomination as the Republican party’s candidate, Trump said that some of his friends had asked him why he was still coming to places like Fresno and giving speeches.
“I’m a little bored,” Trump said. “I want to get into action. That’s why I’m here.”
Trump also spoke about the recent media criticism directed at him over his treatment of women.
“Believe me, I don’t have any problems with women. I love women. I have great respect for women,” he said, then strayed from his prepared remarks to acknowledge Fresno County Sherrif Margaret Mims, who was seated in the audience behind him.
“I just met your lovely sheriff,” he said. “Where’s the sheriff? A beautiful woman.”
Trump saved some of his best shots for his potential opponent, Hillary Clinton — “she lies so much,” he said. “Tell me truthfully folks. Does she look like presidential material to you?”
Trump also criticized President Obama, calling him “grossly incompetent,” and said the U.S. “doesn’t make good deals anymore.”
The reality TV star and billionaire who has funded his own campaign said his experience in the business world uniquely qualifies him to be president. “When I was a business person, I got along with everybody,” he said.
Coming out of the rally, Shelly Long, a Trump supporter from Fresno, said she will “be able to tell my grandkids one day about how I got to see Donald Trump. He’s a great man and will be the kind of leader this country sorely needs,” Long said. “I’ll remember today for the rest of my life.”
Outside Selland Arena, amid a large contingent of Fresno police, some dressed in full riot gear, bands of protestors marched up and down neighboring streets and sidewalks holding anti-Trump signs, shouting and occasionally scuffling with Trump supporters.
Ricardo Gomez drove to the rally from Bakersfield so that he could join the protestors. “It’s hard for me to believe that a big-mouthed racist like Donald Trump actually has a real chance to become president,” Gomez said. “I get so angry when I hear the anti-Mexican things Trump says. I can’t believe so many people are willing to support this guy.”