Opinion: Trump’s New York Rally Is a Scary Reminder of His Reach

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Hiring actors who answered a casting call for a $50 gig—dubbed “not a traditional ‘background job’”—was the only way Donald Trump could draw a crowd when he announced his candidacy for president in 2015.

“Wow. Whoa. That is some group of people. Thousands!” he exclaimed of the two dozen who cheered on cue in the lobby of Trump Tower at the time.

But despite the countless lies and incessant hype on crowd figures that followed, Trump really did draw over a thousand–if not exactly thousands–of supporters to a rally on Thursday evening.

And it was all the more remarkable because it was held in the South Bronx and many of those who began lining up in Crotona Park three hours beforehand were people of color. They stood as proof that the “Trump Amnesia” that causes people to forget his transgressions against basic decency has spread even to his hometown.

“He’s straightforward, no bullshit,” Michael Mercedes, a 20-year-old aspiring model with a day job cleaning airplane cabins at LaGuardia Airport, told The Daily Beast.

Thirty-two-year-old Darlene Mateo offered a similar view. “He’s real,” she said. “He keeps it 100 percent.”

Ira Pizzaro, 55, asked, “What’s not to like?”

Pizzaro shrugged when asked about Trump’s plan to commence mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, dismissing it as just campaign talk.

“That’s bullshit,” she said. “He’s not going to deport anybody. It’s just for the campaign.”

Supporters of Donald Trump gather during a rally in the Bronx borough of New York on May 23, 2024.

Supporters of Donald Trump gather during a rally in the Bronx borough of New York on May 23, 2024.

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

The crowd suddenly surged with upraised cellphones toward an approaching figure and for a moment it seemed Trump may have arrived early. People began chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” Pizzaro remained calm.

“An imposter,” she correctly observed.

Someone had simply dressed up as Trump.

Jeanette Velez, 58, and her daughter, Diana Velez, 34, have a connection with the actual Trump. Jeanette’s husband, Diana’s father, is a former housing cop named Richard Velez, who served as a chauffeur at Trump Tower from 1984 to 1985, driving Don Jr. and Ivanka when they were youngsters. Diana is a police officer in the Bronx and previously served as a corrections officer on Rikers Island. I suggested that Trump could be jailed there if he is convicted in the hush-money trial.

“I hope not,” she replied.

Diana recalled something her father had observed about the wealthy residents of Trump Tower.

“The rich look down on him,” she said, “He is the lower class of the rich.”

A former Marine named Peter Partente was standing nearby and he added an observation about Trump.

“He’s a blue-collar white-collar,” Partente said.

The cop and the former marine both spoke as if this aspect of Trump made him somebody who could better understand them and somewhere in that improbable sense that Trump is one of them may explain the turnout at the rally.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather at the entrance of the Trump campaign rally.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather at the entrance of the Trump campaign rally.

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The Secret Service clearly expected a smaller crowd, for there were only a half-dozen metal detectors at the rally entrance. Hundreds of supporters were still waiting to be screened as the big moment approached, and people grew increasingly impatient. Several moved a metal barricade so as to cut the line.

“Close the border!” somebody shouted.

A Trump security man in a “We The People” T-shirt approached, but declined to intervene.

“It’s what happens when you break down the barricades,” he said: “It’s bedlam here.”

A man in a red MAGA hat gazed past the metal detectors to an expanse of green grass beyond.

“It’s so nice on the other side,” he said, unwittingly sounding like a migrant at the southern border. The man turned impatient with the long line still ahead of him. He wanted in.

“Move this shit!” he called out.

Hispanic Trump Rally Speaker Apologizes on Behalf of Judge Merchan

At 6:20 p.m., the crowd’s attention turned to a motorcade of gleaming black vehicles, their emergency lights flashing. There were cheers and more “USA!’ chanting, followed by the Village People’s “YMCA” blasting over the sound system.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next president to the United States! Donald J. Trump,” a voice boomed.

Trump’s speech had a few New York touches, including a complaint that in the wake of Jan. 6, the city had moved to cancel his management contracts for a skating rink in Central Park and a municipal golf course in the Bronx.

That was in the days before Trump amnesia began to make headway in New York. An indication of how far the crowd’s collective memory has regressed came at the rally when Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton.

“Lock her up! Lock up!” cried the supporters of a man who faces multiple indictments and is presently being tried on felony charges in Manhattan.

They sounded just like some red-state MAGA crowd as their shouts rang out past the clamoring of a small band of protesters who were what was to be expected, only less so.

Trump kept speaking, his voice echoing eerily through the streets of the South Bronx.

And it seemed he really might be the next president of the United States.

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