Ahead of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump‘s speech on Thursday night, the opinion of city officials in Burlington, Vermont was clear: if Phish had oversold their concert by 20,000 tickets, it would’ve been cancelled.
But, in honor of the First Amendment, his 70-minute speech at the Flynn Center was allowed to move forward, The Burlington Free Press reported.
The morning after, the city is enraged by the behavior of his campaign: the city-wide disruption caused by his poorly planned, oversold event, the cherry-picking of supporters from the crowd to create a pro-Trump crowd, and allegedly lying on Twitter about turnout.
Massive crowd in VT tonight. Venue not big enough. Officials say NO to outside event and sound system. Arrive early!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2016
After the speech, Donald claimed that the crowd swelled to 25,000 people, the Press reported late that night. ABC News reported that crowds began to line up at dawn (local news station WPTZ clarified that it was more like 9 a.m.) and by 5 p.m., the line stretched for blocks.
But the city’s police chief, Brandon del Pozo, called out Trump’s estimate and said the crowds in Burlington swelled to only 2,000 people by about 4:30 p.m. Another 700 gathered at a park nearby to protest the oversold event.
Throughout the day Thursday, city officials were concerned that tickets had been oversold. And the campaign didn’t inform Burlington officials what would happen when, in theory, 18,600 people were barred from getting in for lack of space.
Once the oversold event started, hopeful attendees got their answer: you had to support the GOP candidate to get in.
One of those turned away was Jess Kell from Burlington. She had a ticket and waited in line, but was interrogated by a campaign staff member at the door.
“They are asking people if they’re Trump supporters. I said, ‘I’m here to learn and listen and observe,’ and they said, ‘This is a private event, and only supporters may come in.’ And then they had the police escort me out the door. There was no chance to ask questions.”
The billionaire’s response to the loyalty test: “We have more than 20,000 people that showed up for 1,400 spots. I’m taking care of my people, not people who don’t want to vote for me or are undecided. They are loyal to me, and I am loyal to them.”
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger was disgusted.
“Seeing Mr. Trump himself apparently tweeting that they’re going to take care of their own tonight, that doesn’t sound like the words of a president to me,” he said. “If he were elected president I’d hope he would understand that he’s got a responsibility to all Americans, whether they agree with him or not.”
— Dan D'Ambrosio (@DanDambrosioVT) January 8, 2016
Weinberger was concerned about the safety of his police officers, tasked with handling the “large, dissatisfied crowds” that would inevitably be denied entry because the event was oversold. The situation, he feared, would “place police officers in needless confrontations with citizenry.”
His fears were ultimately unfulfilled, but the mayor said afterward that the oversold tickets, lack of organization and communication by the campaign led to higher costs for the city of Burlington and disrupted businesses. The city intends to bill Trump the full cost of this disruption; the bill may reach into the thousands of dollars, including extra labor costs for Burlington’s public-safety staff.
— Haley Dover (@HaleyRDover) January 8, 2016
The citizens’ malcontent with Trump’s arrival in their town was obvious before, during and after the oversold, exclusive event. During his speech, protesters interrupted multiple times and so frequently that the billionaire quickly became agitated. At one point, he chose to punish one interrupting protester.
“Keep his coat! Confiscate his coat! You know it’s about 10 degrees below zero outside. You can keep his coat. Tell him we’ll send it to him in a couple of weeks.”
The temperature in Burlington that night was actually 25 degrees. And waiting outside in that fairly mild Vermont evening were more Trump protesters, who stood outside during his speech and cheered when the evicted left the Flynn Theater.
Reportedly, Trump opponents could be heard shouting “Bernie, Bernie,” into the night.
[Photo By Charles Krupa/Associated Press]