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'Killing us at border' — Trump doubles down in Phx stump speech

Claims attendance of 3-4 times room capacity

Nearly an hour after the scheduled start time Saturday afternoon, the crowd started to chant for the main event to begin: "Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump."

And then without an introduction, he arrived and got straight to the point — the reason most of them had come.

"I respect Mexico as a country but the problem we have is their leaders are much smarter more cunning than our leaders," Donald Trump told a fervent crowd of about 4,000 at the Phoenix Convention Center. "And they're killing us at the border."

Trump later claimed that some 15,000 attended — 3-4 times the capacity of the room.

The showy business mogul turned self-promoting presidential candidate wooed Arizona's white, Tea Party-leaning GOP base by calling for tougher immigration enforcement and walling off the border with Mexico — all with "America's toughest sheriff" by his side.

As Trump and immigration hardliner Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio doubled down on their rhetoric about immigrants, supporters cheered inside and hundreds protested outside.

But Trump said his problem isn't with immigrants and that it might be time to make the process easier, citing his wife as an example of someone who came in the legal way.

"Many Hispanics have worked for me and many work for me now — nobody ever says that, they always cut that out," said Trump. "I love the Mexican people, I love them. Many people came in the legal way."

Trump also said Mexican criminals shouldn't be in this country and can "flow in like water." He laid into politicians on both sides of the aisle whom he said were ignoring the country's security and fiscal welfare, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, other GOP presidential candidates and U.S. Sen. John McCain — who pointedly did not attend the event.

The rest of the state's mainstream Republican leadership, including U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake and Gov. Doug Ducey, also stayed far out of sight.

During his hour-long speech, Trump also spoke rapidly, almost haphazardly, about a wide range of topics, offering a dizzying array of details that almost obscured his lack of concrete plans for how he would keep jobs in America, quickly defeat ISIS and counter alliances between Russia and China, among other national challenges.

Saturday night, a photo of the event was posted on Trump's Facebook page, claiming "This is what 15,000 people looks like." The North Ballroom of the Phoenix Convention Center, where the stump stop was held, has a maximum capacity of 4,200 people.

Sunday, Trump tweeted that Phoenix fire officials allowed an over-capacity crowd into the facility. Authorities and convention center staffers disputed that claim, telling Phoenix TV reporter Brahm Resnick that the room was at capacity during the speech:

"There's no way that would be allowed," said Phoenix Fire Department spokeswoman Shelly Jamison.

"Once capacity was reached, we closed the doors. No rules or codes were broken and no one was in danger at anytime."

Jamison said the Trump campaign had been offered a larger room at the convention center but declined.

The person familiar with the security arrangements, who asked not to be identified, said the convention center, which has its own fire marshal, was very strict on safety.

"It wouldn't have been allowed," the person said of Trump's larger crowd numbers. "The convention center let the client know that 4,200 is where we're going to max out."

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A Trump representative at Saturday's event told reporters that there were 4,200 to 4,500 people inside the packed hall. The security official said a clicker at the door showed 4,299 was the final number of people allowed inside.

Trump bragged during his speech Saturday that his crowd was larger than a recent crowd for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders drew an estimated 9,600 supporters to a Wisconsin event two weeks ago.

Trump campaign representatives did not respond to calls or emails Sunday seeking more information about their claims.

The main exhibition hall of the convention complex can hold up to 12,500 people.

Regardless of the number of attendees, Trump was saying exactly what most in the crowd wanted to hear — so when protesters unrolled a "Stop the hate" banner about halfway through the speech, some of his supporters ripped it from their hands and crushed it into a wad of burlap and red fabric while security rushed the mostly young, mostly Latino group from the building.

Trump has also declared himself the most popular man in Arizona (perhaps why he decided to give a speech in a state that doesn't have an early primary) and said that he'll win the Latino vote despite his controversial statements on immigration and Mexico.

Because of those declarations, Macy's, NASCAR and NBC all told Trump, "You're fired." Univision is contesting his pageant contracts. Navigation points near Palm Beach International Airport dubbed DONLD, TRMMP and UFIRD are getting new "noncontroversial" names, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday.

But Trump shot back Saturday, calling the firings "misunderstandings" that he won't forget.

"When I went on dates and a woman dropped me, which happened often, I would always like to say or at least in my own mind that I dropped her," Trump said. "Does that make sense?"

For Chloe Ogden, 20, the humor brought home Trump's personality.

"I like him even more now than I did before," Ogden said. "Everyone thinks he's so harsh and he doesn't have feelings, but this shows he does."

"He's more of a teddy bear than people think," Ogden's mother, Heather, said.

Meanwhile it was Trump's tougher statements that resonated with Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose high school football star son was killed by a Mexican-born gang member in 2008 and who joined Trump on the stage Saturday.

"He showed me when he came out aggressive like he did that he can weather the storm," Shaw said. "Donald Trump is talking about helping America ... when I turned the TV on I was so happy for the first time in seven years, I felt whole, real whole."

Arpaio also shared Trump's stage - and sentiments.

"I've dealt with the Mexican officials and the Mexican people, they're all good people," the sheriff said. "On the other hand if you violate the law in the United States of America you should be held accountable."

Arpaio, 83, has served more than 20 years as Maricopa's sheriff, but his consistent successes at the voting booth have been increasingly met by challenges - and losses - in court, along with millions paid out in legal settlements. Still, Arpaio retains solid support in Arizona, the state singled out by the Pew Research Center for having the largest "racial generation gap" between older whites, who support Trump and Arapio, and young brown people, who, with their allies, do not.

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When it comes to facing critics, Arpaio advised Trump to remember Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

And Trump has other Arizona supporters, including former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and entrepreneur Brandon Dean.

"I like his policies and I like that he doesn't depend on anyone to fund his campaign," Dean said. "He won't have his backers, he doesn't have to keep their interests in mind, he speaks freely."

Blunt speech also impresses undecided voters, like precinct committeeman Peggy McClain, who appreciated Trump's management style on his reality show "The Apprentice."

"That's what I'm looking for in a candidate," McClain said. "I haven't made up my mind but I like where he's coming from, I like the fact that he's not beholden to anyone for money."

Yet she also wanted more detail about his plans and hopes they'll come during the debates.

"I think Trump isn't getting too specific yet as a strategy," McClain said. "But what a sense of humor — turns bad into good whenever possible."

#Trump2016 vs #DumpTrump

Outside the air-conditioned convention center, protesters endured triple-degree heat and double-digit humidity to hold signs reading, "Trump and Arapio: Bigots united," "Donald Trump get off my lawn," and "Arpaio, Trump - get out of AZ, you're both fired."

Civil rights groups coordinated ahead to form a broad support base, said Francisca Porchas, a spokeswoman for the activist group Puente.

"We want to send a strong message tomorrow that Arizona does not welcome him," said Porchas. "We don't share his sentiments; we're very offended."

Sharing a stage with Arpaio shows Trump aligns with the state's conservative right wing - and sends a message of entrenched racism that alienates younger, minority voters, Porchas said.

"I think there's no way that the Latino community's going to be agreeing with his hateful, racist rhetoric and also his plan so I don't believe that people, the majority of the Latino community will vote for him," Porchas said. "I think he's delusional - I think he's completely delusional."

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 6 »

6
343 comments
Jul 20, 2015, 6:42 pm
-0 +1

Guess what Thrash you are showing off your ignorance and bigotry. Being undocumented is a civil offence not a criminal one…they are no more criminals than someone is for breaking a zoning regulation

5
15 comments
Jul 20, 2015, 11:58 am
-0 +1

@Bret LindenNever its not “good” people that get to decide who the two nominees are.

4
15 comments
Jul 20, 2015, 11:55 am
-1 +1

undocumented aliens are all criminals. Last time I checked we still have laws that they break being here Illegally . If I break a law does that not make me a criminal?  Only if your white I guess. Those evil white man laws don’t apply to brown people ? Of course must be an evil racist if you want simple common laws to be enforced that protect everyone in the nation.

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Rebekah Zemansky/TucsonSentinel.com

Trump speaking Saturday in Phoenix.

Relishing polls, Trump rails against U.S. presidential rivals

By Brad Poole/Reuters

PHOENIX - Boasting of his rising poll numbers, real estate mogul Donald Trump on Saturday railed against his rivals in the 2016 presidential race and criticized companies such as Macy's that cut ties with him over his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

"Thousands and thousands of people are cutting up their Macy's credit card. I love it," the Republican candidate said during a defiant hour-long speech that drew thousands of people.

Since Trump accused Mexico last month of sending rapists and criminals to the United States, numerous businesses have cut ties with him, including NBC Universal, Univision, and NASCAR.

He made fun of each of them, recounting in detail a phone conversation during which Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren told him the retailer would drop its Trump menswear line.

His rally, originally planned for a hotel ballroom, was moved to a convention center after more than 9,000 people asked for tickets, organizers said.

Numbers inside the standing-room-only room were far smaller than that total, although Trump said "thousands" could not get in. Trump was joined at the rally by local sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been sued by the Justice Department for racially profiling Latinos.

Trump said his degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, his 12 bestselling business books, his track record on reality television and his wealth were evidence of his qualifications for the nation's highest office.

"I'm really smart," he said.

He told the crowd he would be able to get hostages returned "in an hour" and would tax Mexico each time someone crossed the border illegally. He said he could convince the head of Ford Motor Co to move a plant back to the United States from Mexico overnight, with a couple of phone calls.

"It's so simple," he said.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll released on Saturday showed Trump neck-and-neck with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush atop the large field of contenders for the Republican nomination.

"How could I be tied with this guy? He's terrible!" Trump said in his speech.

"If you people go with Bush, you're going to lose," he said.

Other targets in his off-the-cuff speech: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy. He mocked Secretary of State John Kerry for breaking his leg in a bike accident.

"We have stupid leaders, OK?" he said.

He also criticized the Mexican government and the "dishonest" press. He called civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton a "con man."

Trump's rhetoric has alarmed Republicans and drawn attention to the party's awkward debate over immigration. Republicans have struggled to attract support from Latino voters without alienating supporters concerned about illegal immigration.

Ahead of the rally, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, said Trump was creating a "circus" that risked damaging the party.

Outside the rally, Democrats from Tucson shared water bottles with about 100 protesters, who chanted "No more hate! No more hate!" to the beat of a drum.

"The only thing I can tell you is that it is awakening the Hispanic community," said Eduardo Sainz, 22. "We're keeping a tally of who is on our side and who isn't. The Hispanic community won't forget in 2016."

Protesters briefly raised a banner inside the speech reading "Stop the hate" but it was quickly pulled down amid pushing and shoving, and they were escorted out.

"I wonder if the Mexican government sent them over here. I think so," Trump said.

After the speech, Scottsdale, Arizona Republican Joan Ewart, 81, said she liked how Trump is not financially beholden to anyone.

"That's the beauty of Donald Trump. He can say anything," she said.