BANGOR, Maine — He says what normal people are thinking. He has a vision to change America. America is doomed without him.
That’s what supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said, one after another, outside his rally Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.
“We are at a crossroad in our nation, and I believe Trump is listening to the American people,” said Rick McLaughlin of Medway, a registered Republican who said he closed his construction business for a day to attend the rally. “He’s not looking for a position in politics for the next 30 years. I believe our politicians are not listening.”
Richard Young of Bangor agreed.
“I believe he’s the only person who’s going to actually do something for this country,” Young said. “All the other politicians are paid for. If he doesn’t turn it around, and we don’t get more Republicans in the Senate and the House and in Congress, this country is in a lot of trouble in the next few years.”
The atmosphere inside the arena was electric when Trump took the stage. Thousands of people donned “Make America Great Again” hats and clothing, and many who didn’t, stocked up on Trump paraphernalia from a number of hawkers outside the rally. On Main Street, a few dozen protesters garnered support from motorists honking their horns and condemnation in the form of angry shouts and middle fingers.
Tracy Jalbuena of Rockport was among the protesters along with her 12-year-old daughter, Tess Jalbuena-Cook.
“I’d be ashamed if Trump comes to be our president,” said Jalbuena. “One thing that bothers me in particular is his comments about women. … It’s clear that he has a very low opinion of women, and that is really disturbing to me.”
Her daughter said she doesn’t know much about politics but knows enough to “absolutely hate Donald Trump.”
“Just him getting nominated is just disgraceful,” said Tess.
Amy Ellis of Bangor, who said she has a transgender daughter, called Trump a bigoted racist.
There is some cause for that. Howie Carr, a conservative talk radio host, spoke at the Trump rally on Wednesday and continued his attacks on Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by saying, “You know Elizabeth Warren, right?” before imitating a Native American war cry. Trump has repeatedly referred to Warren as “Pocahontas” and insinuated that she has lied about her heritage.
Warren, who campaigned earlier this week with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, has been lambasted by conservatives for allegedly exaggerating her Native American heritage in a Harvard employment application.
“We’re the free world for a reason. The beautiful thing about being an American is the diversity,” said Ellis, who along with dozens of others held a sign with a picture of Maine on it along with the words “No Place for Racism.”
“We’re a melting pot for everywhere,” she said. “There is absolutely no place for anything like this. We need to spread the word of love.”
Timothy Rich of Bar Harbor was escorted out of the rally shortly after Trump began speaking. Rich yelled at Trump, who then asked him to leave amid an “Out, out, out” chant from the crowd.
Rich said he was treated respectfully by police but that the crowd was intimidating.
“I didn’t go in to cause any kind of ruckus,” said Rich. “I never would have done that at a Mitt Romney rally or a John McCain rally. I think it’s important that average citizens speak out.”
One of the realities of Trump’s presidential campaign is that he’s pulling support from people who are new to politics, including many first-time voters.
At Wednesday’s rally there were some exceptions to that rule, including Dick Shaw of Bangor. Shaw said he’s undecided about who he’ll vote for come November, but there was no way he was going to miss Trump’s speech. It marked the sixth presidential candidate he has seen visit the Bangor area since the 1950s.
“Just curiosity,” Shaw, who is retired and a hobbyist historian, said about why he came. “I haven’t made my choice yet.”
Shaw said he saw Dwight Eisenhower speak to a Bangor crowd in the 1950s, Lyndon Johnson in 1966, Richard Nixon in 1971, Jimmy Carter in 1978, and George H.W. Bush and son in 1980.
“It’s free. It’s entertaining,” said Shaw as he stood in a line of hundreds of people filing into the Trump rally. “For better or worse, you have to say that Trump has energized the political process.”
After the rally, Trump supporters flooded out of the Cross Insurance Center to head back to their cars. Some, who parked in the Hollywood Casino garage, crossed paths with anti-Trump protesters lined up along Main Street.
That led to political and philosophical discussions and debates that were sometimes heated, but nonviolent.
Some rally attendees passing through the crowd chanted “build the wall,” a reference to Trump’s campaign claim that he will make Mexico pay to build a wall along its border with the United States to block illegal immigration. They were met with counter chants of “no place for hate!”
Some rally attendees stopped to talk with protesters, sparking sometimes lengthy debates.
Women explained how Trump’s comments about women offended them and left them feeling demeaned. College students argued that America was built by immigrants, and building walls will do nothing to make America great. Trump supporters countered that it’s only illegal immigration that concerns them.
Among the Trump supporters who stopped were Derek Smith, 26, and Michael McKee, 24, who drove from Aroostook County. They spent nearly 45 minutes talking to multiple groups of protesters after the event.
Trump opponents told the two men they took issue with Trump’s aggressive rhetoric on race, immigration and women. Smith and McKee are of the mind that “you’re allowed to say whatever you want to say in this country,” and that behind that rhetoric are real political problems that need to be sorted out.
Protesters countered that free speech doesn’t mean speech without consequences or criticism, and that Trump’s rhetoric can cause serious political and social damage to the country.
“We agreed to disagree,” Smith said.
BDN writer Nick McCrea contributed to this report.