Trump Rallies in North Philly in Pennsylvania’s Bluest City

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, June 22, 2024, at Temple University in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

PHILADELPHIA (The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS) — Former President Donald Trump stood in the heart of North Philadelphia Saturday and described it as a “wild time” in the city, saying violent crime has surged and vowing to send “federal resources” if he’s elected.

In an 85-minute speech that included multiple appeals to Hispanic and Black voters, he slammed his rivals as “despicable,” proposed an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)-style fighting league for migrants, and promised to restore security to the country.

“The people of our country are looking for hope, whether they’re white, brown, Black or anything else. They’re looking for hope,” Trump said. “They’re tired of being called stupid people all over the world.”

Trump’s rally at Temple University’s Liacouras Center was the first time the former president has held one of his signature events in Philadelphia, a city of 1.6 million people wherein registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 7-to-1 margin. Four years ago, the former president received only 5% of the vote in precincts within a half-mile radius of Temple’s campus.

The event put in clear relief the effort the Republican nominee is making to win over voters — especially people of color — in traditionally Democratic strongholds. He recently rallied in Las Vegas and the South Bronx, New York. At the rally Saturday, the Trump campaign’s second in Philly this month, signs read: “Philadelphia is Trump country.”

“I was like, Philly? Is he sure?” said Tom Mathena, 47, a Trump supporter and construction worker from Wilmington, Delaware. “It was a bold move.”

His supporters, who lined up in South Philly Saturday, waving flags as Trump stopped for a cheesesteak on the way to his rally.

Miles north, thousands more poured into the arena after waiting outside in temperatures that threatened to hit 100 degrees. They held signs with the former president’s mugshot reading “never surrender.”

The Liacouras Center, which can hold about 10,000, did not open the upper level to attendees — just the lower bowl and roughly 10 rows of floor seats at the arena were full. The crowd was overwhelmingly white, but a higher concentration of Black supporters were seated in the section behind where Trump stood, making those supporters visible on the live stream.

Biden is still expected to win Philadelphia handily. But even a small shift in votes could hand Trump Pennsylvania, a key battleground where he and Biden are polling neck-and-neck and a state that could tilt the presidency.

“We win Pennsylvania,” Trump said, “we win the presidency.”

The rally came just days before the first presidential debate of the campaign on Thursday.

Much of Trump’s speech focused on issues he’s emphasized on the campaign trail, namely inflation and immigration. He described recent crimes allegedly committed by migrants in graphic detail, and he vowed to begin the “largest domestic deportation operation in American history.”

“Joe Biden’s wave of bedlam and death and terror will begin to recede the moment I take the oath of office,” Trump said.

Matthew Contreras, a Trump support from New York, said immigration is a key reason he supports the former president.

“Illegal immigrants are a problem for us citizens, we need to secure the border and support legal immigration,” he said. He added: “(Trump) offers Latinos the chance to be whoever they want.”

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