Saying he’s “tough,” “not scared” and “stands up for what he believes in,” thousands of Donald Trump supporters turned out in force Friday for a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
But Trump also drew a handful of staunch protesters at the rally. Most of them waved Mexican flags and reminded Trump’s supporters about his disparaging remarks toward immigrants.
Trump’s supporters, as they filed through the convention center doors, occasionally fired back.
Several people yelled, “Go back to Mexico!” One group of protesters then pointed out that they were born in Texas and lived in Decatur. One Trump supporter yelled, “Build the wall higher!”
Several protesters flew Mexican flags from pickups as they drove through downtown and circled the Convention Center.
“They’re blaring their music and blowing their flags,” a woman said as she walked toward the Convention Center entrance.
After one intense shouting match, Fort Worth police converged on the crowd, dividing the protesters and supporters with their bicycles until the rally ended.
Earlier Friday, as they gathered outside the convention center, Trump enthusiasts proudly explained why they like him.
Veteran’s widow: ‘I’m an independent’
Cordelia Jenkins, 55, hasn’t voted since 2000, when she chose Al Gore over George W. Bush.
But Friday morning she pushed her walker on the sidewalk along Commerce Street, waiting toward the back of the line.
She said Trump is the right candidate to take care of veterans. Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, committed suicide in 2008 after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder for decades.
“I’m an independent,” Jenkins said. “I believe Trump is going to go in there, clean house and get every veteran the help they need. If I had had that, I would not be a widow. I would still have my husband today.”
‘Hispanic man’: ‘I voting for Donald J Trump’
Mark Garcia of Arlington arrived with a pointed message.
Wearing a suit, he held a cardboard sign: “I’m a Hispanic man. I voting for Donald J Trump. No one pay me to say that.”
“I’m tired of politics promising something that’s not going to happen,” Garcia said as the line of supporters shuffled into the convention center. “I believe in my heart, as a Hispanic man, that he’s going to make America great again. … He’s going to stop people from coming over here illegal, working for cheap labor.”
Aggies: ‘He’s the most famous person in the world’
Texas A&M students Andy Habib, 22, and Daniel Pattison, 21, watched the Houston debate from College Station on Thursday night and then drove to Fort Worth, arriving at 2 a.m.
“It’s worth a six-hour car ride to just come see the man,” said Pattison, who’s from Fort Worth. “Whether you love him or hate him, he’s the most famous person in the world.”
Habib said he’s drawn to Trump’s foreign policy stance, but also his “tough personality.”
“You have to love his successful businessman personality,” Habib said.
Baylor student: ‘He’s not scared of anything’
Baylor law student Taylor Giusti, 25, drove from Waco early Friday.
Carrying a handwritten “I’m not tired of winning yet” sign, Giusti explained his support for Trump.
“He’s not scared of anything,” Giusti said. “It’s one of those things where yeah, he’s done some stuff in the past but who hasn’t? He’s just got power. He makes you feel safe.”
Giusti referred to Rubio as “the establishment” and Cruz as “the liar.”
“I figured let’s take a chance on this guy,” Giusti said. “He can’t be any worse than the other choices we could make.”
Sailor: ‘Please, no Hillary’
Mark Petty, 24, of Fort Worth attended the Trump rally Friday on a 30-day leave from the Navy.
He attended by himself because his mom, a public school teacher, couldn’t get the day off.
“I don’t believe Trump knows everything but I believe he will appoint the right admirals and generals to get the job done,” said Petty, who just returned from a tour at Yokosuka, Japan.
Petty added that he would also support Cruz but prefers Trump.
“I’m happy with either one, but please no Hillary,” he said.
Teens: ‘We’re huge Trump fans’
Bryson Ellis and Cody Monroe, both 18 and from Kyle, were in line by 7 a.m.
“We’re huge Trump fans,” said Ellis, who plans to join the Army after graduation. “Big patriots, I guess.”
Said Monroe: “He stands up for what he believes in. He’s not afraid to speak out.”
Among their high school friends, Ellis and Monroe said, Trump is as polarizing as he is elsewhere.
“You either love him or you hate him,” Ellis said. “It’s one or the other.”
Businesswoman: ‘He speaks my language’
Stacy Kirkham, a liquor store owner from Victoria, made the five-hour drive to Fort Worth on Thursday.
“I’m a businesswoman and he speaks my language,” Kirkham said. “The government makes more money off my business than I do. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.”
Kirkham bought her ticket to the rally Tuesday, when the event was announced. After staying in a Super 8 motel Thursday night, she arrived at the south entrance at 6 a.m. Friday, wearing a Trump campaign button and a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Early in the campaign season she debated between supporting Trump or Cruz. But after Cruz’s campaign workers allegedly told Iowa voters that Ben Carson had dropped out, Kirkham shifted her support squarely in favor of Trump, she said.
“The one thing you can say about Donald is that you may not like what comes out of his mouth, but you can bet money on it,” Kirkham said. “It’s the truth.”
Merchandiser: ‘It’s just a madhouse’
Ross Campbell, of Atlanta worked a merchandise booth outside the Convention Center, selling campaign buttons, bumper stickers and “Super Trump” T-shirts.
“I didn’t realize Trump supporters were so passionate,” Campbell said, “and kind of crazy, honestly.”
Campbell joined an independent vendor’s business and was placed on Trump duty.
“I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle right away, so I said, ‘You know what, I’ll go travel and see the country and make some money while I do it,’ ” he said.
He goes home about once a week, driving from rally to rally. After Friday’s event, he was heading to Oklahoma City for Trump’s next appearance.
“My boss has been doing this since the ’80s, and he says this is the most he’s ever seen,” Campbell said. “It’s just a madhouse everywhere you go.”
Best button: ‘We Shall Overcomb’
Some really clever campaign buttons were for sale at the rally, but perhaps the most creative is one that playfully pokes fun at Trump’s hair: “We Shall Overcomb — Trump 2016.”
Other buttons include one with Trump’s head superimposed on a Superman body that reads “SuperTrump ’16” which for the over-45 crowd (or anyone who enjoys ’70s music) will serve as a callback to the band Supertramp.
Some take jabs at Clinton, showing a picture of her behind bars and reading, “Hillary for prison 2016.”
Pot supporter: ‘No one belongs in jail for a plant’
Karen Reeves, who lives in Hewitt, just outside Waco, stumped for marijuana law reforms as she walked outside the rally. She carried a flag meant to resemble the American flag, except it was green and featured a giant pot leaf where the 50 stars would normally be.
She also carried a poster that said: “No one belongs in jail for a plant.”
Reeves, whose organization CenTex Community Outreach plans to be at a pro-marijuana convention this weekend at the Convention Center, said most of the Trump supporters treated her well. A few agreed with her message.
But, she said: “One guy said he was insulted I wore a Marine jacket. I have two sons who are Marines. Active duty. I am entitled to wear this jacket.”
Protester: A message of hate
Brittany Fee, 20, of Saginaw held a poster with her own version of Trump’s slogan: “Make America Hate Again.”
Fee said she worries that if Trump were elected, equal-rights progress made for women, gay people and other groups could be rolled back.
Fee said she was treated poorly by Trump supporters in the Convention Center, even though she had a ticket, before being escorted out.
“Some of them tried to grab my sign and take it away,” she said.