PORTLAND — While promising to restore greatness in America, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday suggested the influx of Somali refugees is a security risk in the city and Maine.
“We’ve just seen many, many crimes, getting worse all the time. And as Maine knows, (this is) a major destination for Somali refugees. Am I right?” Trump asked the crowd at a rally in Merrill Auditorium.
“We admit hundreds of thousands into Maine and other places in the United States, hundreds of thousands of refugees, and they are coming from among the most dangerous countries and territories anywhere in the world, a practice which has to stop,” Trump said about halfway through a 50-minute speech. “This isn’t like they are smarter than other people, this is a practice that has to stop.”
Trump said his objections to Somali immigration are based on a Washington Times story about Somali integration in Minnesota.
“The effort to resettle large groups of Somali refugees is having the unintended consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the safety net and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups,” he said. “It is happening.”
In his third appearance in Maine this year, and second in Portland in six months, Trump also promised a crowd of about 1,900 supporters he would strengthen the nation’s military, cut income taxes in half and provide strong leadership for economic growth.
“The Obama-Clinton economy has been a disaster for working people. We are going to bring back our jobs, people,” Trump said in a city where the unemployment rate has been below 3 percent since January.
Trump said his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is the reason for so many foreign policy missteps by the Obama administration, and that she was a criminal who would strip Second Amendment rights of gun ownership.
“We haven’t seen this since medieval times,” he said of terrorist killings, including beheadings. “It has gotten out of control, and Obama let it get out of control. If he had to do it over again, he would never would have picked (Clinton) as secretary of state because he has gotten into such trouble with the decisions she probably made or convinced him to make.”
Trump also thanked Gov. Paul LePage for giving him a new moniker for Clinton during LePage’s eight-minute introduction.
“We need to make sure we defeat the queen of corruption,” LePage said.
Trump accused Clinton of erasing emails from her tenure as secretary of state to save herself from prosecution.
“She deleted those emails to cover up what could be a major crime,” he said. On the recommendation of FBI Director James Comey, the U.S. Department of Justice decided against charging Clinton for her use of private servers to send and receive U.S. State Department emails.
“Her email scandal put the whole country at risk,” Trump said.
His comments were followed with chants from the crowd of “lock her up,” mixed with an occasional “hang her.”
Trump also criticized the Obama administration over the transfer of what he said was $400 million in cash to Iran before the January release of four Americans he called “hostages.”
Although the Obama administration did not disclose the payment when it occurred, it denied any cash was exchanged and has said the payment was not a ransom, but part of a $1.7 billion repayment for a failed arms deal with the former Shah of Iran, who was deposed in 1979.
While an Associated Press analysis discredited Trump’s claim as “a concoction,” the candidate maintained the money would end up in the wrong hands or encourage more hostages to be taken.
(A day later, on Friday, Aug. 5, Trump finally admitted he had not seen video of a $400 million cash transfer.)
The crowd inside spanned all ages, but Trump’s promise to aid veterans and rebuild the military especially resonated. He said the best aircraft now made are getting sold to foreign countries.
“We have to go to museums and get spare parts for our planes,” he said.
There were some ejections from the rally, including members of the Maine People’s Alliance, who waved copies of the Constitution as they filed out.
The 3 p.m. start of the rally was pushed back twice, but supporters of the candidate and protesters began arriving outside City Hall by mid-morning. Prominent among the opposition were Mayor Ethan Strimling and School Board member Pious Ali, who is also running for City Council and spoke at a counter-rally organized by the Maine People’s Alliance.
Strimling said Trump’s values do not represent the values of Portland. Holding up a copy of the Constitution, Strimling spoke about the Democratic National Convention, where Khizr Khan, the father of slain Army Capt. Humayun Khan, did the same. He said Trump did not believe in the document.
“We have to reject that,” Strimling told the crowd. “Donald Trump does not represent us.”
Ali spoke about the need for unity and cohesion in defeating Trump. He said “our unity is our strength,” and that “together we are going to make this country great.”
“We are all stronger together with our differences,” Ali said. “An attack on one of us in an attack on all of us.”
Waiting in vibrant sunshine, Warwick, Rhode Island, residents George and Janis Kortyna disagreed.
“He wants to make America first and safe. It is getting scary out there. I worry about my grandchildren,” Janis Kortyna said.
The couple drove to Maine after they were unable to get inside a recent Trump rally in Rhode Island.
“My wife decided two days ago to do this,” George Kortyna said. “I think (Trump) represents people who are sick of the political establishment. We don’t need a third Obama term, and that is what we would get with Clinton.”
Portland resident Doug Emerson protested with a sign reading “Are puppies or kittens next?” in reference to Trump asking to having a crying toddler removed from his rally in northern Virginia on Tuesday.
“If you’re going to kick a baby out of a political rally, are you going to kick out puppies, are you going to kick out kittens?” Emerson said.
Emerson said he does not support any of Trump’s positions, and finds him “reprehensible” and “callous.” He said Trump’s candidacy goes “beyond what could be considered comical,” and has become “terrifying.”
“These are serious times, and it takes a serious person to be president,” Emerson said.
Cape Elizabeth resident Gabby Lawrence will vote for the first time this fall, and she said she is ready to vote for Trump.
“I’m generally conservative, I’ve been conservative my whole life,” she said as she waited in line.
While she likes Trump’s stance on taxes and reducing the $21 trillion national debt, Lawrence said she also likes Trump’s blunt approach about an unsafe world.
“It is clear cut and kind of like the harsh truth,” she said. “I think the media is slandering him unfairly.”
Vendors lined the sidewalk outside City Hall, selling shirts, buttons and hats bearing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton messages. Mother and son Sheila and Kevin Terry came from Ohio and were selling T-shirts and other items.
The two have been following Trump around parts of the country, they said, beginning with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last month. Their stops included Columbus, Ohio, and Noblesville, Indiana. Thursday was the first time either one had been to Maine.
“There’s been so many of (the stops) they kind of blur together,” Kevin Terry said.
Brunswick resident Michael McCann was one of the hundreds of supporters waiting outside Thursday. McCann, who saw Trump in previous Portland and Bangor events, said while he thought of himself as more of Libertarian, he likes Trump’s polices and the energy he has created by doing things differently.
“He’s shaken the (Republican) Party up,” McCann said.
But Portland resident Kelly McDaniel compared Trump to the rise of fascism, since he has been known to deny press and media access, demand pledges of support, and single out groups of people to target and blame for societal problems. McDaniel also protested Trump’s March event in the city.
“I will be saying ‘not on my watch,’” she said.
Joining the MPA to protest the rally were the Maine Democratic Party, which held a press conference outside City Hall, featuring Strimling and state lawmakers. Additionally, there was a silent vigil held in Monument Square.
David Cluchey, an organizer and retired law professor from the University of Maine School of Law, estimated between 300 and 400 people attended the vigil, although most of them eventually migrated to the mass of protesters at City Hall.
“We believe Donald Trump is unfit and unqualified to be president of the United States,” Cluchey said.
As protesters remained outside, Lorraine Johns, of Naples, Florida, said she was delighted being inside Merrill Auditorium.
“This is off my bucket list,” she said of her first political rally, and one for a candidate she has supported from the start.
A former Brunswick resident, Johns attended with her grandson, Bennett Johns, 14, and her friend, Joe Aucoin of Topsham.
Bennett Johns said he would vote for Trump if he could because “I like his character.”
Lorraine Johns said Trump’s appeal is based on his success and candor.
“He’s not a politician; I want a businessman,” she said. “What I like about him is I can understand what he is saying.”
She said Trump has had a bad rap from the media, especially about accusations of sexism.
“How can he be sexist, he’s been married three times,” Johns said. “He is very fair to women and his family is beautiful.”
Last updated Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers a 50-minute speech Aug. 4 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)
A group protests the appearance of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Portland on Thursday, Aug. 4. (Diane Hudson / For The Forecaster)
An unidentified Donald Trump supporter barks back at a protester’s sign asking “Are puppies or kittens next?” on Aug. 4 before Trump’s rally at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. The sign referred to Trump having a crying toddler removed form an earlier rally. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)
Portland City Hall Plaza was filled by supporters and opponents of Donald Trump on Aug. 4 before the Republican presidential nominee spoke at Merrill Auditorium. (Diane Hudson / For The Forecaster)
A man entering the Trump campaign rally in Merrill Auditorium holds a sign aimed at protesters outside Portland City Hall on Thursday, Aug. 4. (Diane Hudson / For The Forecaster)
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, left, speaks with Jack Cianchette, of Saco; Molly Ramirez, of Bath, and Tyler Washburn of Bowdoin as they stand in line outside Portland City Hall for a Donald Trump rally around the corner at Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, Aug. 4. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)
Portland attorney Tom Connally channeled his inner Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aug. 4 to oppose Donald trump’s visit to Portland. (Diane Hudson / For The Forecaster)
George Kortyna traveled from Warwick, Rhode Island, with his wife, Janis, to hear Donald Trump speak in Portland on Aug. 4. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)
Gov. Paul LePage introduces Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Aug. 4 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)