The crowd at Trump rally estimated at 30,500 by Floyd County Police — not counting support staff, volunteers or those on the outside looking in. The original projection was 15,000. By comparison, downtown Rome’s Christmas parade draws between 20,000 and 25,000 people.
Final report from Floyd County Police: Lots of people and traffic but just one arrest and six ambulance trips (ankles, fatigue, chest pains)
Law enforcement is grateful for cooperation from the thousands of people who attended the presidential election rally Sunday night, and for the many hundreds of spectators who thanked police for their service and offered support for our profession. There were some delays with traffic and crowd flow but considering the volume of people, police consider the night to be a success.
There were more than 30,500 spectators at the rally for President Donald Trump Sunday night at Richard B. Russell Airport. Police began turning away foot traffic and redirecting buses at 7:50 p.m. – an hour before the president landed in Rome. Many spectators who were turned away remained on the half mile stretch of road outside the airport because they wanted to be near the rally or see the historic landing of Air Force One in Rome.
In about two hours, that same crowd was dispersed.
Law enforcement from Floyd County Police Department, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office and Rome Police assisted U.S. Secret Service with crowd control and traffic management.
“Our people worked well together and helped everyone have a safe experience,” said Tom Ewing, assistant chief of Floyd County Police Department.
There were no reports of vandalism or theft of property either in or around the event and no disturbances or incidents of civil unrest. There were no pedestrians injured by vehicle and police only received report of one vehicle crash, which involved a driver who misjudged clearance and struck a parked police vehicle.
Police arrested an Atlanta man on public drunk charges one person misplaced their vehicle after the event. On two occasions, a child wandered away from family but was reunited in less than 30 minutes.
Six patients were transported to the hospital with injuries ranging from sprained ankles and fatigue to chest pains and falls.
“With an event of this size, there are bound to be issues that arise,” Ewing said. “But our officers did very well thinking on their feet and resolving problems.”
A few observations from police about future events is communication with the public about changes in bus embarkation points. There were periods of waiting as the second wave of buses returned from parking areas but nothing extreme, said Ewing, pointing out that the same crowd that entered the airport in five hours was gone in two.
The event opened an hour early and for five hours, people filed into the airport until the gates were officially closed at 8:25 p.m. In little more than two hours, the airport was empty and all parking locations were vacated after the president left at 10 p.m.
Not all spectators arrived by shuttle. People arrived at the airport on foot as early as 5:30 a.m. to see the president speak at 9 p.m. Others parked on the side of the highway or in designated spectator parking before making the trek to see the 45th president.
Police were scattered throughout the area for at least a half mile in all directions with blue lights activated to warn drivers of pedestrians and cars parked on the road. “Our priority is always public safety, and while traffic might have been slow there were no injuries,” Ewing said. “All in all, it was a successful night.”
Ewing said the airport has many security benefits but those can create challenges when accommodating the public in an event of this nature.
Initially there were congestion issues that were observed as spectators entered the event so police made corrections and modified bus routes to accommodate more efficient traffic flow. Traffic on Martha Berry Highway was slow but at no point was the flow of traffic stopped; police utilized the right lane as a bus lane for loading and unloading.
“The shuttle service did a tremendous work and always had buses waiting to load spectators,” Ewing said. “The drivers were very professional and flexible with our changes.”
Amid a sea of flags, blazing red hats and few masks, probably 20,000 — and perhaps 30,000 people — swarmed Richard B. Russell Regional Airport in Armuchee Sunday night to hear 50-plus minutes of Donald Trump’s greatest hits from the campaign trail.
Some were in line at the airport by 5:30 a.m. Sunday to watch a speech that didn’t begin until after 9 p.m. and ended just before 10 p.m. with Trump’s urging the crowd to “go out and vote.”
He opened by telling the faithful — a strong mix of men and women and mostly white — his advisors had told him he didn’t need to come to Rome — or Georgia — because internal polling already showed he’s take the state’s 16 electoral votes again after the Nov. 3 count is concluded. To loud applause amdi cheer of “four more years,” he said he had to come because he promised he’d do so.
He quickly caught himself by telling the crowd to be sure to vote on Tuesday, again fueling the “tradition” of in-person voting on election day. Already, more than 100,000 Northwest Georgians and nearly 4 million state residents have made their decision thanks to absentee ballots of advance voting the past three weeks.
The visit was cherry picked for the very reason in front of him — a made-for-TV campaign moment among a sea of faithful. Four years ago, 70.2 percent of Floyd County voters picked Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. On the eve of an election that national polls show is tilting toward Democrat Joe Biden, Trump got the visuals and focus he sought. Even as Biden supporters appeared elsewhere in the state on Sunday and again today, Trump praised “the red wave” before him.
— Dan Scavino🇺🇸🦅 (@DanScavino) November 2, 2020
The crowd, some paying as much as $5,000 for two VIP tickets for better access, parking and a reception, got what it hoped to see. Nearly an hour of pure Trump, the impressive landing and takeoff by Air Force One, and an undercard of politicians on the state and local level.
People were lining up in the usually spacious parking lots surround Mount Berry Mall for one of the dozens of shuttle buses carrying supporters up a clogged U.S. 27 to the regional airport that bears the name of naval hero John Towers. VIP park was assigned to Armuchee High School. Those hoping to easily drive up to the airport were disappointed and, just before the rally’s scheduled start time at 8:30 p.m., Floyd County Police announced the event was at capacity and late-comers were being turned away.
Trump’s visit capped a particularly busy week of campaigning in Rome/Floyd County that started a week earlier with Democratic Senate hopefuly Raphael Warnock appearing downtown. Later in the week, Doug Collins, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler would show up, some with buses and the usual crowd.
It wasn’t all a red carpet tour, though. Signs were hung from the pedestrian bridge, calling for America to build bridges, not walls. A Democratic rally set for outside Rome City Hall from 3 until 5 p.m. Sunday was canceled just after 11 a.m. with organiers citing security concerns voiced by state Democratic leaders. Perhaps those were fueled by the motorcade incident involving a Biden bus and Trump supporters in Texas a day before. That standoff is now under investigation by the FBI.
As for Rome, police said no reports had been filed about suspected disruption or militia involvement. Local and state Democrats would later hold a Zoom press conference that was more of a digital rally on behalf of Biden, mostly citing the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s handling of the health crisis.
And coronavirus was the issue most mentioned other than the Trump visit.
All weekend, motorists in downtown Rome were seeing the above billboard on Broad Street just off Turner McCall. Placed by ruralamerica2020.org, the advertisement “warned” of the Trump rally set for Russell Airport on Sunday night, billing it as a superspreader event. The same billboard went up in Macon on Friday in advance of a Trump stop there (background).
The timing was perfect, not just because of healthcare concerns about the thousands gathered shoulder-to-shoulder for hours at the airport but because of a study The New York Times, as well as most media, posted a story about the analysis. It starts as follows:
“A group of Stanford University economists who created a statistical model estimate that there have been at least 30,000 coronavirus infections and 700 deaths as a result of 18 campaign rallies President Trump held from June to September.” (Full report)
And while Sunday night’s rally surpassed campaign goals, it also came at a time when Rome/Floyd County is coping with a resurgence of the deadly virus. Consider:
- 67 COVID patients were in Floyd and Rdmond Regional hospitals on Friday, a day after a pandemic record 70 patients were being treated there.
- Northwest Georgia concluded its deadliest month yet — October — having lost 54 residents from Floyd, Bartow, Gordon, Polk and Chattooga counties.
- Just over 1,000 area residents have been hospitalized since patient zero here back on Feb. 29.
- We’ve seen 13,000 people diagnosed with COVID in the region since late February including 20 more on Sunday.
- Rome City Schools remains on virtual instruction through Nov. 6 because of the high number of student cases and necessary quarantines. Bartow and Gordon county schools likewise are having concerns, especially Bartow where four schools are now in the “yellow” phase meaning COVID cases and mostly closed campuses to outsiders.
The bottom line: As the nation watched on TV or online Sunday night as Trump spoke in Armuchee, healthcare officials will now be monitoring testing sites and area hospitals to see what impact, if any, the rally could have on assembled crowds, law enforcement and support staff after the votes are counted this week.
10:12 p.m. Wheels up.
10:06 p.m. Air Force One begins to taxi.
9:56 a.m. … “go out and vote,” Trump says as the speech ends and “YMCA” blares over the speakers.
9:48 p.m. The Wall … Second Amendment … Nods to elected, appointed officials.
9:29 p.m. You know the script … every bullet point: Lockdowns, Antifa, economy…
9:03 p.m. Hatch opens… 9:04 p.m., Trump exits to Lee Greenwood.
8:55 p.m. Wheels down for Air Force One at Russell as “Macho Man” plays over the loud speaker.
8:46 p.m. ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ now being played; cue the candidate (anyone remember that take on this by the cheerleader at that Pepperell High game…?)
8:41 p.m. Someone made a killing selling new MAGA hats… (see below) Trump video now on big screen behind VIP seas.
8:38 p.m. With gloves on and mask on, aide disinfects the microphone from which Trump will speak.
8:33 p.m. Floyd County Police report the crowd is at capacity; late arrivers are being turned away.
I’m in Rome, GA, to cover tonight’s Trump rally. Thousands have gathered despite it being chilly and windy. No social distancing. Few masks. Trump is scheduled to speak in about an hour. pic.twitter.com/XbS3nUZ5iU
— Tia Mitchell, AJC’s Washington Correspondent (@ajconwashington) November 2, 2020