By Caitlyn Meisner | Copy Editor, Luke Lattanzi | Staff Writer, Jessica Rajkumar | LTVN Reporter
Former President Donald Trump held his first official campaign rally for the 2024 presidential race Saturday at the Waco Regional Airport.
Trump spoke to a crowd of thousands. The initial estimates from the Waco Police Department were around 15,000, and it is likely there were that many people in attendance. Most, if not all, were there to support Trump. No protestors were seen attending the rally.
It was a bright, sunny day with no clouds — or shade — in sight. Attendees were packed onto the runway of the airport, with a special section for media, guests with wristbands and invited guests like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Congressman Matt Gaetz and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Other politicians were in attendance, including state senator Brian Birdwell and representative Charles “Doc” Anderson, along with U.S. Congressmen Roger Williams (TX-25) and Wesley Hunt (TX-38).
Before Trump was slated to speak, he lined up several guest speakers to start at 2 p.m. including Gaetz, Greene, Patrick, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, musician Ted Nugent and pastor Ramiro Peña.
Parking and the security lines opened at 8 a.m. for guests, but nobody was allowed into the venue until noon. Traffic in the area was backed up for hours and left attendees to park in fields almost three miles away from the airport.
Although parking wasn’t available until 8 a.m., supporters like McAllen sophomore Daniel Escobedo showed up early to secure a good spot inside the venue.
“I got out here at 3:30 in the morning,” Escobedo said. “I’m really ecstatic being out here, and he hasn’t even come out yet.”
Ladera Ranch, Calif., sophomore Zach Estes said he was also excited to be at the rally since it’s a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“I’m here to see the former president and possibly future president,” Estes said. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to come out to a Trump rally, let alone any presidential candidate rally. I’m hoping that he talks about what he’s going to do, run and win this election if he gets the Republican nomination.”
Covan Nguyen traveled to Waco from San Diego, Calif., for the rally to inspire young people to vote for Trump. He said as a man from Vietnam, he felt like he needed to come and influence people to vote Republican.
“The future is yours,” Nguyen said. “Take the country back. Don’t let the communists and the socialists take over.”
A man named Brian, originally from Washington, D.C., but moved to Texas for the Army, said he showed up to the rally because he wants to support Trump’s next bid for the White House.
“We had a good four years of Trump, and now we’re not so good,” Brian said. “I was skeptical of Trump [in 2015], but once he won the primary, he just opened my eyes. He did a lot with all the roadblocks and everything that everybody threw up against him.”
In all his years watching politics, Brian said Trump is the only president he has seen actively fulfill his promises.
“I’ve lived through Reagan, Carter and Nixon, and from what I remember, [Trump] is the only politician I’ve seen that actually tried to fulfill his campaign promises,” Brian said. “And he did. Most other politicians, they make promises and they forget them as soon as they get elected.”
Kevin Shillings from Waxahachie said this was his first rally, and he hoped Trump would replicate what Shillings has seen in videos.
“From what I’ve seen, I hope to see the same intensity that he brought in the past, the positive message that he has,” Shillings said. “When he was in office I felt safer as a citizen. There’s so many things to list that are wrong that were right before, and I want it back like it was. That’s what it boils down to.”
As music blasted throughout the open field, video compilations from news outlets were shown of Trump during his first campaign for president. As these videos played, several supporters stopped in their tracks to shout at these old clips.
Initially, Trump was scheduled to begin his speech at 5 p.m.; however, he did not fly in to Waco until 5:45 p.m. and began speaking a little after 6 p.m.
As his personal plane flew in, “God Bless the U.S.A” blasted through the speakers and an artist was introduced. She painted an image of Trump as his plane rolled closer to the stage.
“Hallelujah” began to play as Trump entered the venue from his plane and the crowd fell quiet. As he walked from the red carpet lined with American flags, a video played with the national anthem and pledge of allegiance. Videos in the background showed Trump hugging a flag, speaking with service members and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.
Trump began his speech by thanking all of his supporters, especially the ones who made it to the rally Saturday.
“From deep in my heart, thank you for your prayers and thank you for your love,” Trump said. “I love you all. For seven years, you and I have taken on the corrupt, rotten and sinister forces trying to screw up America.”
Throughout his speech, each time the border was mentioned, the crowd collectively booed.
“We’ve been standing up to the globalists, the communists, we don’t even talk about the socialists anymore,” Trump said. “The Rhinos, the big money, special interests, the open border fanatics.”
Trump transitioned to talk about President Joe Biden and his administration, specifically their “weaponization of law enforcement.”
“Their weaponization of law enforcement against their political opponents is something straight out of Stalinist Russia,” Trump said. “Look at a third world Banana Republic. That’s what we’ve come to: between our borders, our elections and the weaponization of law enforcement, a Banana Republic.”
He then discussed his frustration with the Supreme Court and the justice system. Trump mentioned Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell and tried to distance himself from “Washington Republicans.”
“The innocence of people makes no difference whatsoever to these radical left maniacs,” Trump said. “I think it’s worse than media manipulation by the FBI working together with Twitter and Facebook. We have to stop them from cheating in elections because if we don’t win this next election, I truly believe our country is doomed.”
Trump then moved to discuss Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected Republican presidential candidate. He said he financially helped Gov. DeSantis when he ran for governor.
“When a man comes to me with tears in his eyes that he is almost nothing in the polls, and he’s fighting somebody that’s at $42 [million] and he’s got almost $30 million, and said, ‘Sir, if you endorse me, I will win,'” Trump said. “I did rallies for Ron that were massive rallies and they were very successful, so we got him the nomination, we then got him the election.”
Trump reminded the crowd that Florida was once considered successful in his eyes, but no longer feels that way.
“Florida was tremendously successful under Rick Scott … long before this guy (DeSantis) became governor,” Trump said. “I’m not a big fan. He’s a disciple of Paul Ryan.”
He said he had higher poll numbers than “DeSanctimonious,” his nickname for DeSantis.
Trump went on to discuss his own legal troubles and said the prosecutors in Manhattan are not coming after him, but his supporters.
“They are coming after you and I’m just standing in their way,” Trump said. “Eventually I will not have to stand in their way because in 2024, we will have the greatest victory of them all. By having this delay of four years, it was devastating to the psyche of our country.”
Trump moved to criticize Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and praised NewsMax for their recent ratings. He said leftist media tried to destroy NewsMax.
“While leftist thugs are about to roam the streets killing, looting, burning, raping [and] pillaging, patriotic parents, Christians, conservatives, pro-life activists are being hounded by the FBI and the [Department of Justice] .”
He applauded his work with China when he was president and said the current administration and politicians in power, such as U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator Chuck Schumer and McConnell, are the real threat to the United States.
“These sick people are more of a threat because we can deal with China,” Trump said. “The problem is not China. The problem is stupid people that have to deal with China.”
Trump then hit on the border crisis, a hot topic in Texas politics.
“Remember, the people after me are the ones who are throwing your borders open to millions and millions of illegal aliens,” Trump said. “They are flooding your towns with deadly drugs and selling your jobs to China, mutilating your children … setting fire to your life savings, releasing violent criminals to prey on innocent people. Justice will be done when we have drawn this repulsive political class out of office.”
Trump said he wanted to rebuild the economy and reclaim the country’s “energy independence.”
“Proud Texas energy workers will once again be pumping, producing and refining Texas oil and gas to turn America into the No. 1 energy superpower on Earth,” Trump said.
He moved to outline his goals if elected president, which included gaining total independence from China, cutting federal funding to schools teaching critical race theory, universal school choice, cutting funds to schools with vaccine or mask mandates, a constitutional amendment for term limits in Congress and cleaning up homeless camps.
“I will move heaven and earth to fully secure our elections,” Trump said. “Our goal will be one day voting with all paper ballots. But, until that day comes, Republicans must compete using every lawful means to win. We will not have a country left if we don’t win this election.”
Nearing the end of his speech, Trump praised the people of Texas for their patriotic spirit and assistance in making America the greatest country in the world.
“From Waco to El Paso, from Houston to Dallas and from the Red River’s of the Rio Grande, the people of Texas live and breathe the fiercest spirit of independence,” Trump said.
Just before leaving the stage, Trump said his supporters and him are “one people and family.”
“We are one movement … one nation under God,” Trump said. “With your help, your prayers, your hope and unwavering love for this country, we will make America powerful again. We will make America wealthy again. … We will make America great again.”
After his nearly 90-minute speech, Trump boarded his personal plane around 7:30 p.m. and flew to West Palm Beach, Fla., to his Mar-a-Lago home. Trump has no other campaign rallies scheduled yet.