Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump spoke in front of 11,400 people at Buffalo's First Niagara Center Monday night, in a large rally on the eve of New York's primary election.
The Manhattan developer brought his "Make America Great Again" campaign to Buffalo in his last major rally before Tuesday's primary. He was introduced by Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan.
“This is a great honor for me to introduce Donald Trump,” said Ryan.
Ryan said he was not politically endorsing Trump, but told supporters he admires the controversial candidate.
The announced crowd was smaller than many anticipated, but Trump said he was pleased with the support.
“Boy, what spirit the people of Buffalo have,” said Trump.
Trump fired up supporters talking about "New York values," slamming Republican opponent Ted Cruz for his now-infamous comment. Trump said Cruz "hates New York."
“We love this state and we love New York values,” shouted Trump.
Trump promised to bring back jobs to the U.S. and Buffalo, create stronger trade deals and a stronger military, and defeat ISIS.
Repeatedly, Trump referenced building a wall along the Mexico border, saying “We will build that wall" to much applause.
Trump also called for repealing Obamacare, an end to Common Core, and protecting the Second Amendment.
“If in Paris, they had guns with bullets firing the other way, you wouldn’t of had 130 people absolutely decimated and killed,” Trump said.
The crowd was fired up, often chanting "USA."
“We’re going to win, win, win and we are going to make American great again. American first folks, American first! Thank you Buffalo! We love you Buffalo!,” Trump concluded.
"We're ecstatic. This is one of the greatest political events to ever have been held in Western New York," said Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy, who has endorsed Trump's campaign.
Among those in attendance to hear Trump's speech was Joan Christopher, who is backing the Manhattan developer over one issue: jobs.
"I'm all about the jobs. I mean I am hoping he can build this wall and people come in legally, keep the drugs out. But, I'm about putting America the way it used to be," Christopher said. "I grew up in the Sixties, all these blue-collar jobs in Buffalo and now they just aren't there anymore. I'm just looking for jobs. I want jobs to stay in America where they belong. Period."
Trump's views on immigration also resonated with many in the audience, including Joshua Pleva.
"He said a lot of stuff he said on stage. He's not a politician. I don't like politicians. That's why I left the Republican Party. And, he's going to be strong on immigration. And I like that," Pleva said.
Outside the arena, hundreds of Trump opponents gathered within a designated area along Perry Street directly across from First Niagara Center.
They carried signs with various messages, some calling out Trump for what the protesters say is his record of "hate."
"He's talked against women, he's talked against immigrants and Mexicans, he talks against a lot of people," said protester Gregg Bentham. "He talks big but he doesn't do anything. He will not do anything."
Protesters carried numerous signs with various messages about what they described as Trump's racism, sexism and Islamophobia. Other signs likened him to a Nazi, with one protester's sign turning a series of T's into a symbol resembling a swastika. Others represented the "Black Lives Matter" movement, while some offered "free hugs."
While most protesters identified themselves as supporters of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, two among the crowd were Ted Cruz backers.
"I just got sick and tired of the lies Trump was telling, and his supporters not knowing his policies," said Robin Schmeider, one of those two Cruz supporters. "Trump needs to know I'm never going to vote for him, no matter what."
As the speech inside First Niagara Center continued, nearly two dozen people were ejected from the building. Buffalo Police Lieutenant Jeff Rinaldo said 21 were removed from the building and six were arrested.
Two of those taken into police custody were arrested as protesters shifted from outside the arena to along the tracks of the Metro Rail, which was readying to take many Trump supporters away.
"At that point some protesters did get on the train tracks. As a matter of safety we had our platoons move up there and move them off the tracks for their safety," Rinaldo said. "Most of them complied. I believe we had two arrests from that area."
Charges ranged from disorderly conduct to trespassing.
In all, eight law enforcement agencies took part in providing security: Buffalo Police, U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Erie County Sheriff's Department, New York State Police, Town of Amherst Police, Town of Tonawanda Police, and NFTA Police.
As thousands of people made their way into the First Niagara Center, law officers were joined by volunteers from Buffalo Peacekeepers, who helped usher rally-bound guests past a loud gathering of protesters.
"This is about our community," said Buffalo Peacekeepers and Stop the Violence Coalition Executive Director Murray Holman. "It's about the United States being peaceful. It's how we should have all protests.
"People have a right to say what they want to say, but we want to make sure everybody is going to be peaceful. We don't want anyone getting hurt out here. No one."
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