EVERETT — They came early, stayed late and no supporters left disappointed Tuesday when Donald Trump cruised into Xfinity Arena and vowed to “make America great again.”
“Our country is going to hell and we’re not going to let it happen,” the Republican nominee vowed, eliciting a huge roar from the crowd. “This is what I’m promising: an honest government, a thriving economy, a just society … and jobs, lots of jobs.
“I am the change agent,” he said. “This is a movement.”
Trump worked his way through the major themes of his campaign, pledging to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, revive the inner cities, build a wall along the southern border to stop undocumented immigration and to revitalize manufacturing.
He reiterated his commitment to protect gun rights, repeal Obamacare and renegotiate trade agreements to protect American interests.
“I’m fighting for you,” he said. “The government will work for citizens once again.”
Trump, speaking to a mostly white audience, said he would do more to help African-American families in cities where jobs are few and crime poses problems.
“Nobody has been hurt more than African-Americans” by the policies of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her party, he said. “War-torn countries are safer than living in our inner cities. By a lot. It’s not even close.”
At least four skirmishes broke out in the crowd as Trump spoke, and Everett police, the U.S. Secret Service and campaign volunteers quickly intervened.
People cheered as the situations were resolved. They chanted Trump’s name and flashed at protesters the peace signs he requested, and some other hand signs he didn’t.
“Is there any place better to be than a Trump rally?” he asked.
A man several rows behind Trump rocked a baby in a bonnet in his arms as the candidate promised Americans “a great education and many other things.”
Not surprisingly, Trump elicited the most vociferous response whenever he criticized Clinton. Each mention of her name drew boos and chants of “Lock her up.”
Trump blasted her handling of foreign policy as secretary of state — “she was horrible, horrible” — and her use of a private server and the deletion of thousands of missing emails.
“It just never ends with the Clintons. There is only one way to get justice in this rigged system,” he said. “The only justice we’re going to get is a tremendous victory for everyone in this room and this nation on Nov. 8.”
Trump did not mention the Boeing Co., which he has previously said will shutter operations in the U.S. and move to China if Clinton is elected.
But he did raise one issue that’s been a source of some debate in Washington — Syrian refugees.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, following the lead of President Barack Obama, is welcoming refugees in the state. Trump said he’ll end that policy.
The event was compared to a mini-convention for Republicans, from near and far.
Earlier, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, was a surprise speaker who attended Trump’s fundraiser earlier that night in a different part of the building.
“Donald Trump can change the direction of this country from the wrong direction to the right direction,” Giuliani told the crowd.
People began lining up outside Xfinity Arena at 2 a.m. Tuesday. By the time Trump flew into Snohomish County’s Paine Field at 4:20 p.m., the line outside the arena stretched along 10 downtown city blocks. The fire department was expected to cap attendance at 10,000. Trump claimed the crowd was a record for the arena.
One woman wore an American flag scarf around her neck, waving to friends as she went to join them. Others donned Trump blankets as capes, with red hats being a popular choice among attendees, many of whom shunned reporters.
State Sen. Kirk Pearson and two other senators attended. But the biggest GOP names on this fall’s state ballot skipped the event, including Bill Bryant, who is running for governor, and Chris Vance, who is vying for the U.S. Senate.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the only Republican in statewide office on the West Coast, also passed.
The fundraiser attracted two top Trump surrogates: Giuliani and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, according to Susan Hutchison, chairwoman of the state Republican Party. Also in attendance was Tim Eyman, the professional initiative promoter from Mukilteo.
The fundraiser drew about 150 people and raised around $1.5 million, she said.
Trump visited the state in May, and his return Tuesday fulfilled a promise he made then to Hutchison. She is confident that his appearance in Everett will boost the party’s chances in the November election for statewide candidates — even though they all skipped the event.
That will be a challenge based on the votes cast in the presidential primary in May.
Trump garnered 43,159 votes in Snohomish County in that election while Clinton received 42,135 and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders captured 40,355 votes.
And in Everett, both Clinton and Sanders garnered more votes than Trump in the presidential primary. Sanders received 5,197 votes, followed by Clinton with 4,986 and Trump with 4,148.
On Tuesday evening, a few hundred anti-Trump demonstrators gathered at Clark Park, where they listened to speakers including Democratic elected officials and political activists.
The crowd later marched several blocks down Lombard Avenue, chanting “Love trumps hate.” When they arrived at Xfinity Arena, they faced off with the crowds waiting to get inside. A phalanx of police stood between the two groups.
The two events provided Trump with a smooth touch-and-go en route to Arizona, where Wednesday he is to deliver a much-anticipated speech on immigration. Trump’s campaign said he was meeting Wednesday with Mexico’s president before Trump’s Arizona speech.
As the crowd dispersed at Xfinity, one man turned back to snap one final photo of the Trump campaign logo on the scoreboard.
He wore a striped button-down and a baseball cap with a campaign pin on it.
Then he too, filed out, not expecting to see a presidential candidate in Everett again anytime soon.
Herald writer Chris Winters contributed to this report.