MJ Lee and Pat St. Claire, CNN, July 12, 2015
At what was his largest campaign event yet–with a huge U.S. flag stretched from one side of the stage to the other–Donald Trump addressed his faithful followers Saturday at the Phoenix Convention Center.
Two dozen supporters stood behind the Republican presidential candidate holding signs reading, “Trump, Make America Great Again,” while an estimated 5,000 supporters looked on.
Expressing his amazement at the size of the crowd, Trump said, “This is unbelievable. This began as 500 people in a ballroom in Phoenix.”
The campaign was asked to move to a larger venue to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted tickets, according to Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks.
The Trump campaign said 15,000 tickets were distributed for the event at the Phoenix Convention Center, where the North Ballroom has a capacity of only 4,200, according to the facility’s website. The campaign said thousands were turned away because of fire regulations.
During his speech, Trump turned the lectern over to Jamiel Shaw Sr., the father of a high school student killed by an undocumented immigrant, who spoke about why he is supporting the candidate.
Shaw’s son, a high school football star, was shot and killed in Los Angeles in 2008 by a gang member born in Mexico. On Friday, Trump met in Los Angeles with Shaw and other family members of victims of crimes perpetrated by undocumented immigrants. He then gave a lengthy press conference in which he consistently railed against illegal immigration. Saturday’s speech was filled with similar words.
“I love the Mexican people,” he said. “I love their spirit. I respect Mexico as a country. Their leaders are much sharper and smarter than ours.”
But, Trump said, “They’re killing us at the border and killing us in trade.”
A short protest broke out during the speech. Some protesters held up a banner and Trump supporters started screaming at them. It was unclear what the banner read.
There was a brief scuffle and for a few minutes it was very tense. Security came and escorted the protesters out.
“I wonder if the Mexican government sent them over here,” Trump said.
“Don’t worry, we’ll take our country back,” he said, as the crowd cheered.
Illegal immigration is “a major, major problem in this country” that has to be solved, Trump said.
Promising to secure U.S. borders with a impenetrable fence, Trump claimed undocumented immigrants are coming to the United States from all over the world. “This isn’t just Mexico,” he said. “They’re coming from the Middle East, and we better be very careful,” Trump warned.