President Donald Trump spoke to a full crowd at a “Students for Trump” event in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 23. Although this wasn’t an official rally that was part of his campaign schedule, it was essentially a rally event for students. The event was held at the Dream City Church in Phoenix, which has a capacity of about 3,000, and the venue appeared full in photos and videos. The crowd photos below give a better idea of how many attended the event.
The last time Trump had an official rally in Phoenix — in February 2020 — about 14,000 attended.
Here’s what you need to know:
The 3,000-Capacity Church Venue Appeared Full
Hundreds of people were already lining up late Monday night for the Tuesday afternoon event, according to AZ Family, which reported the church’s capacity is 3,000. From photos of the event, it looked like the venue was full. In the photo below, you can see that a big part of the lower section is full and there are crowds in the upper section, as well.
Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire said there was “no social distancing” and that he only saw face masks on “the White House travel pool.” Some attendees did wear masks, but they didn’t appear to be in the majority.
Slate reported that Dream City Church pastor Luke Barnett posted a video on the church’s Facebook page on June 21 claiming “the church had installed air purifiers that ‘kill 99.9 percent of COVID in 10 minutes.'” The video appears to have been deleted since, though a statement posted on the page June 23 clarifies that “Our statement regarding the CleanAir EXP units used the word COVID when we should have said Coronavirus or COVID surrogates.”
Dream City Church sees about 20,000 attendees at services at its six locations during nonpandemic times, Slate reported.
Here’s another look at the crowd. As you can see, the venue looked full both at the top levels and at the lower levels.
There was no social distancing to be seen and, as Jordan Fabian of Bloomberg noted, very few were wearing masks.
Ben Tracy of CBS News also commented on the lack of masks and distancing.
Cleavon Gilman, an ER doctor in Arizona, tweeted concern about the people seated so close together as numbers in Arizona were rising.
Trump spent quite a bit of time talking about the “radical left.”
“The radical left, they hate our history, they hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans,” Trump told the crowd after getting a lot of cheers from the audience.
He told the group that the left doesn’t love the U.S. and is not interested in helping the downtrodden. “If you give power to people that demolish monuments and attack churches … then nothing is sacred and no one is safe,” he said.
Only About 50 to 60 Were in an Overflow Area, According to Local Reports
With Gliberto Zermeno of CBS 5 saying there were only about 50 to 60 people outside the event, it appeared that there was not an overflow crowd for the event. It’s not clear if an overflow crowd was encouraged for this event.
Here’s another look inside the church.
Trump Talked About Mars & Mail-In Voting
During the rally, Trump promised that the U.S. would be the first country to plant a flag on Mars.
At another point during the rally, someone yelled, “I love you!” Trump made them stand up and then commented: “Whoa! … Sit down fast please, fast, don’t let them see you. That’s a lot of press back there.”
Trump also talked about how the virus was an “excuse” for mail-in ballots, which he claims will lead to a “rigged election.” But studies have shown that voter fraud isn’t a major concern with mail-in ballots, Brookings reported. In fact, mail-in ballots have been used for absentee voting for years, according to MIT’s Election Data & Science Lab. In 2016, 33 million votes were cast by mail, Brookings reported.
Washington state has used mail-in ballots since 2005, the New York Times reported, and there has been no evidence of widespread fraud. In fact, Washington’s Secretary of State Kim Wyman said any method of voting has the chance of fraud, but in her state mail-in ballot fraud was quite low. Voter registration is vetted, and Washington voters can track their ballots to see where they go and if they were counted, according to the New York Times.
A study of elections from 1996 to 2018 found that voting by mail didn’t give an advantage to either Democrats or Republicans, Brookings reported.
Hundreds Protested Outside & Were Met with Flash-Bang Grenades by Police, Local Reporters Said
While the rally was going on inside, hundreds were protesting outside, AZ Family reported. The Phoenix police used flash-bang grenades when protesters began blocking the streets.
AZ Central reported that while protesters were outside the church in an area designated as a free-speech zone, police put on riot gear and “began notifying the crowd that it was deemed an unlawful assembly.” The outlet reported that “confusion ensued as protesters said they did not know what was wrong.” Police told them to leave and shot projectiles into the crowd, AZ Central reported.
On Twitter, Phoenix Police said it was an unlawful assembly due to “criminal activity and a current danger to our community.”
Before the event began, pastor Luke Barnett and COO Brendon Zastrow said in a video that they had an air filtration system that would neutralize the virus, NBC News reported. Zastrow said church members designed the technology and “it kills 99% of COVID within 10 minutes.” The videos were later removed, NBC News reported, and experts have expressed doubt about the claims.
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