CLEVELAND — Among the 100-plus Donald Trump supporters at the America First rally along the Cuyahoga River in the Flats of Cleveland on Monday, Rhonda Welsch was truly disappointed. She expected more.
More people, that is. Hundreds of thousands of people should have come out for the rally, said Welsch, who traveled from Kahuku, Hawaii, to witness the Republican National Convention.
“People are afraid to come out,” said Welsch. “What 60-year-old individual, who’s got bad knees, wants to come here and put themselves at risk?”
She blames the media and threats of violence against police for more supporters not attending. At Monday afternoon’s gathering, there was no violence — not even verbal outbursts from anyone but Trump fans.
Besides Trump supporters, most of whom were part of a Bikers for Trump group, the only other group present was the media — en masse. Under sunny skies and summer heat, there may well have been as many reporters, photographers and videographers at the rally as Trump fans.
If there were supporters of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton among the crowd, you didn’t see or hear them.
The keynote speaker of the rally was Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser known for conspiratorial attacks on the Clintons. Although he arrived nearly two hours late, Stone fired up the crowd by promoting the presumptive Republican nominee as a man of unity, an economic driver and a man of the people.
“I have never been more excited about a presidential campaign,” said Stone, who told the crowd he’s worked on nine Republican presidential races. “This is not the Republicans versus the Democrats. This is the elites of the Republican and Democratic parties, who have driven this country into the ditch, versus Donald J. Trump and the rest of America.”
Much to the crowd’s pleasure, Stone took swipes at Hillary Clinton and her husband, and commended those in the crowd wearing “Hillary for Prison” T-shirts — which were promoted and distributed by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who also addressed the crowd.
“We’re going to push even harder with more ‘Hillary for Prison’ shirts,” Jones told the crowd. “That [Hillary for Prison] meme, multiple times, has been the No. 1 search term above Brexit and Pokémon Go. That’s right, we’re even giving the Nintendo a run for the money now.”
If there was a confrontation at the rally, it was between Jones and comedian Eric André, who was in the crowd and summoned onstage by Jones. “Just bring the agitator up here,” Jones said.
“I’m not a Democrat — I’m a nihilist,” Andre told Jones in his deadpan tone. “I want you to have sex with my wife.”
“Oh, you’re just trying to be shocking,” Jones responded. “This is an agitator who just wants to shut down our speech.”