As the sun set on a passionate crowd, security showed President Donald Trump into Alumni Coliseum, a first for Eastern Kentucky University. Supporters in the crowd held signs reading “Women for Trump,” “Keep America Great,” “Drain the Swamp,” and “Build the Wall” to name a few.
Alumni Coliseum was a sea of red, white and blue as he walked into the rally to the song, ‘Proud to be an American’ and uproarious applause from supporters. Trump arrived in Madison County Saturday to encourage citizens to vote for Congressman Andy Barr in the upcoming 6th District elections on Nov. 6.
"It's not every day a small town like Richmond gets to see the president and I personally like Donald Trump. I'm kind of a fan. So, I'm personally excited as well. I feel like he is brutally honest about everything and knows what he wants to get done," said Dalton Hembree, an EKU sophomore.
Barr said hosting President Trump at Eastern Kentucky University was ideal because Madison County and the state of Kentucky voted for the president in large numbers in the 2016 election.
Trump called Barr's Kentucky opponent Amy McGrath "an extreme liberal." McGrath posted a short tweet at the conclusion of the speech: "Mr. President, you clearly don’t know me. Yet."
The president praised top Republicans from Kentucky, including Gov. Matt Bevin, who received a mixed reaction from the crowd. Bevin was not seen on stage at the rally, but greeted Trump when Air Force One landed at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington around 5:30 p.m. along with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Barr were both in Richmond to meet the president.
“The only reason to vote Democrat is if you’re tired of winning,” Trump told the cheering crowd.
Outside of the rally, one EKU student said what he heard inside Alumni Coliseum made him leave and join protesters on South campus.
"It’s been crazy," sophomore marketing major Alonzo Spears said. "I’ve gotten to see both sides. I actually got to go inside and hear that. I heard a lot of things I didn’t agree with, and I just wanted the opportunity to see the president so I just went in there, couldn’t take it anymore, walked out here, and figured I’d be with people that support my ideals and people that are likeminded with me."
Spears said he was disappointed with the president's words, but was hopeful after meeting some of the protesters across the street.
"The beauty of America is we’ve got young people like the people out here right now that are willing to make sacrifices to make America a better place than it is," he said.
Topics of Trump's speech ranged from the second amendment, healthcare, the border wall and more.
He also took a jab at the media present to cover the event.
“Look at the fake news media all back there,” Trump said pointing to the media stands while the crowd booed in unison.
Nolan Pettit, an EKU senior, saw a connection between the rally and his major in public relations.
"From a PR standpoint, it may draw a lot of attention for First Amendment rights to be protected no matter what side of the fence you are on," Pettit said.
Trump and Barr spoke of tax cuts for the middle class, ending the opioid epidemic and keeping coal mining jobs in Kentucky.
“This great state was settled really tough tough men, and even tougher women. Kentucky was settled by tough men and pioneer women who braved the wilderness and defied the dangers to build a life and home. They didn’t have a lot of money or a lot of luxury but they all have one thing in common. They love their families, they love their country and they love their God," Trump said.
He praised Barr, who in turn praised Trump when it was his turn to talk.
"The president is a man of action. Other people resist but this man gets results," Barr said.
Joan Campbell, an EKU alum from Booneville, had waited outside Alumni Coliseum with her two sisters and sister-in-law since 6 a.m.
“We absolutely love Trump. He is the people’s president,” Campbell said. “We know we are his inspiration when he wakes up in the morning. The Supreme Court Justices that he has appointed will benefit generations for futures to come.”
Campbell said one thing she was not happy with about the rally was the number of seats that were reserved for “dignitaries” and should be reserved for the people.
“This is just awful. There are open seats and so many people outside that are waiting to get inside. We feel bad for them. I think that President Trump would want the American people to fill these seats,” Campbell said.
Campbell said Trump made some promises that she thought needed to be done faster.
“I will tell you I think that Trump needs to drain the swamp faster, and build the wall now,” Campbell said.
The rally lasted for approximately an hour and 30 minutes.
The Progress posted videos on social media websites throughout the day as the rally grew closer, including interviews from GOP supporters and protestors. Eastern Progress journalist Marvin Stewart conducted an interview over Facebook Live with music from Queen and the Beatles playing on speakers outside the rally next to Coliseum. Facebook muted two minutes of the interview with the music in the background citing copyright violations.
Earlier this week, Prince’s estate asked Trump not to use Purple Rain as background for the president’s rallies.
Police sources told Progress staff members the rally crowd inside the Coliseum was approximately 6,500 with thousands turned away at the door.
EKU President Benson was not at the rally.
Edits have been made to this article.