Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump stuck to some of the familiar hallmarks of his campaign during today’s rally Ashburn, which also featured a number of protests and the arrest of a Loudoun School Board member.
Speaking for more than an hour at Briar Woods High School, Trump criticized rival Hillary Clinton as dishonest, called for protective tariffs on trade, said the U.S. could benefit from closer ties with Russia, and pledged to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico paid for by Mexico.
Despite protestors being escorted from the rally several times, Trump found his speech most disrupted by a baby. While one mother tried to quiet her crying baby, Trump stopped his speech.
“Don’t worry about that baby,” Trump said. “I love babies. I hear babies crying, I love it. What a baby.”
But a few minutes later, when the baby started crying again, Trump’s attitude changed.
“Actually, I was only kidding,” Trump said. “You can get the baby out of here. That’s alright. Don’t worry. I think she really believed me that I would have a baby crying while I’m speaking.”
But despite persistent protesting both inside and outside the rally, Loudoun was also kind to Trump.
In a week when he has been under fire for criticizing the father of Muslim soldier killed in Iraq and for a questionable medical deferment that may have kept him out of the Vietnam War draft, Trump found support from at least one veteran.
“Something very nice just happened to me,” Trump said. “A man came up to me, and he handed me his Purple Heart.”
Trump remarked that “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”
Trump said the veteran, retired Army Lt. Col. Louis Dorfman, declined to speak, although Dorfman did come onstage and shake hands with Trump.
“He said, ‘No sir, I’d like you to just keep saying what you’ve been saying,’” Trump said.
The school’s auditorium did not have nearly enough space for all the people who wanted to attend. Before the event, a line of hundreds of people wrapped around the building.
“Would anybody like to give up your seat?” Trump joked, to shouting and laughter.
His stump speech hit familiar targets.
“She only knows to lie,” Trump said of Clinton. “She really does, only knows to lie, but she lied, and it’s a big story.”
He then segued into criticizing news media.
“It’s amazing that they cover it, because the press is so totally dishonest, OK, so totally dishonest,” Trump said. He predicted that the New York Times would go out of business.
Trump also predicted that he would spend more than $100 million of his money on the campaign and called for closer ties to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia?” Trump said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we actually had a relationship with Russia?” He said the U.S. and Russia could “partner up and go knock the hell out of ISIS.”
He also said this year’s presidential election will be particularly important for the Supreme Court. The next president, he predicted, will appoint between three and five justices.
“I’ve already chosen 11 that were vetted and were so good,” Trump said. “These are great judges.” He said he wants to appoint justices in the mold of late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“It’s a crooked system,” Trump said. “It’s a rigged system. We’re running against a rigged system, and we’re running against a very dishonest media.” He closed his speech promising: “We are going to be proud of our country again, we’re going to put America first, we are going to start winning again, and we are going to make America great again.”
One row of seats in the auditorium was taken up by people familiar with it—recent graduates of Briar Woods High School who took off their shirts to reveal T-shirts with protest themes. At one point during the speech, they stood up from their seats—positioned directly in front of the television cameras—and linked arms, facing silently away from the stage. They remained linked together as they were escorted out.
One of those protesters, 2015 Briar Woods graduate Chris Soell, said the idea came from Polish soccer fans.
“They were disagreeing with how their soccer team was being run, but instead of just not going to the games anymore, they still wanted to support their team, so they went and they just decided to stand backwards with their arms around each other like this and face away from the field in silent protest,” Soell said, while he and other protestors held a similar demonstration outside after the event.
“We decided to do the same thing because there’s so much extreme noise in politics in America these days that you can’t even talk about politics anymore,” Soell said. “If we were to just come here and make a scene and start yelling that Trump is fascist and all of these things, it wouldn’t advance the narrative in any possible way. It would just polarize the country even more.”
Soell also said he saw three girls wearing hijabs refused entry, and two young men wearing Arab head scarves, or keffiyeh, escorted out. A small group of people of Middle Eastern descent were also questioned by security several times while holding “Hillary for Prison” signs.
That conflict carried over into protests after the rally, where many protestors were Muslim. Others got into debates—some heated—with Trump supporters over topics ranging from the Second Amendment to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Despite the protests and high emotions exhibited by Trump’s supporters and critics, only one arrest was made during the event.
Broad Run District School Board member Joy Maloney was arrested and released after she allegedly tried to prevent Trump supporters from entering the school.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kraig Troxell said Maloney, 45, of Broadlands, reportedly stepped in front of several attendees waiting to go inside. She was asked to go back in line. She refused to do so before and then sat on the ground. Organizers then revoked her ticket and she continued to refuse to leave.
She was charged with trespassing and taken into custody. A magistrate released her on a $1,000 unsecured bond. Maloney has not yet responded to a request for comment.