Donald Trump supporters rally in Harrisburg. Credit: Twitter photo via @MaryWilson

Donald Trump says he loves Philly. Partly because of his Wharton education. The other part is because he liked playing golf at Cobb’s Creek.

“Who knows Pennsylvania better than me?” the one-time Philly resident and Penn student said. “I went to school here you know.”

The Republican presidential frontrunner rallied with thousands of central Pennsylvania supporters at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg Thursday. In addition to his apparent love for Philadelphia, Trump vowed to bring back jobs to Pennsylvania, and — stop us if you’ve heard this part before — build that wall Mexico “will pay for” and beat his opponents like “crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”

“I gotta win Pennsylvania, that’s what I gotta win,” Trump said. “I mean, Cruz doesn’t even know where Harrisburg is. This guy, he went to New York and they threw him around like a rag doll.”

The Donald was fired up. Fresh off a big primary win in his home state of New York, the real estate mogul is reasonably close to securing the delegates he needs in order to clinch the nomination outright and avoid a contested convention where the party could, theoretically, overthrow him. And Pennsylvania, a state thats primary rarely matters because of how late in the season it occurs, could hold the key for him.

Pennsylvania has 71 delegates to send to the convention, but 54 of them are unpledged, meaning they don’t have to vote for the candidate their district does. Still, a majority of delegates from Pennsylvania have said they will vote how their district did.

“Our country needs help,” Trump told the crowd. “We’re being stripped of our money, we’re being stripped of our jobs… so we are going to change things around.”

Trump rallies have become synonymous with controversy. Protesters have been thrown out, punched in the face and thrown to the ground. At least six protesters were escorted out of the building by state police to cheers from the crowd and from the candidate. “Aren’t Trump rallies fun?” Trump said, saying his rallies draw the largest crowds of any candidates in the field, and later adding as people were being thrown out: “This is like a rock concert.”

A protester is escorted out of the Donald Trump rally.
A protester is escorted out of the Donald Trump rally. Credit: Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Prior to the start of the event, a man came over the loudspeaker and assured the crowd that Trump appreciates the right to free speech and the First Amendment “even as much as the Second Amendment,” but “some people have taken advantage of Mr. Trump’s hospitality.”

The man urged attendees not to touch protesters around them (to some groans), but to instead alert authorities by getting everyone around them to chant “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and a law enforcement officer would escort the protester to a designated zone outside the venue.

Trump gave his typical stump speech. Mexico will fund the wall. He’ll defeat ISIS. He’s going to bring back all the manufacturing jobs that were lost. Mitt Romney is the worst. The media is the enemy. Illegal immigration is over. And Donald Trump “loves the Hispanics.”

“If you’re gonna vote for anybody else other than me,” he told the crowd, “do not go out to vote.”

The event was decidedly central Pennsylvania-esque. Taking place in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, the rally was held in a space with a dirt ground that’s normally reserved for farm animals, smells… fragrant?… and felt like breathing in dust. And sure, the crowd was older than, say, the young’uns who showed up to cheer for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at Temple University just a few weeks ago, and Penn State more recently. But there were still a fair share of young people there to show their support for one of the most divisive political figures in a generation.

There were teenagers like Peyton and Jack Stretch, brothers who are 16 and 13, respectively, who skipped school in their Palmyra School District to line up to see Donald Trump at 7 a.m. They were first in line for the action and sprinted to get through security once the doors opened.

“He speaks the truth,” Peyton said. “He says the things that need to be said.”

Peyton and Jack Stretch, of Palmyra.
Peyton and Jack Stretch, of Palmyra.

The Stretch brothers were among the thousands of people who stood outside, sometimes in the rain, to wait to enter the venue for the rally. Dozens of vendors sold T-shirts, buttons and swag to people in line. Ta Mara Moore, a shirt salesman from Cleveland, has been going to Trump rallies since January and has sold more than 1,000 T-shirts at $20 apiece. Some say “Donald Fuckin’ Trump.” Another says “Hillary Sucks But Not Like Monica” on the front and “Trump That Bitch” on the back.

Dozens of people were wearing the shirts inside the event, among other… creative clothing selections. One man’s shirt said “The H is Silent in Benghazi.” Another read “This is America, We speak English, We Drink Beer, We Own Guns, We Love Freedom, If You Don’t Like It, Tough Shit.”

Trump was introduced by U.S. Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta, both Pennsylvania representatives who have endorsed Trump and promised those at the rally that Trump would be the answer. Marino started a “Blue Lives Matter!” chant and Barletta told the crowd that once Trump is president, “you can say Merry Christmas again.”

“He is the strongest voice,” Barletta said minutes before Trump appeared on stage, “for immigrants in America.”

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.