ººMissoula, Montana turned into a bustling rural city last Thursday as thousands awaited the arrival of President Donald J. Trump to address supporters in his third visit to the state.
Broadway was jam-packed with traffic in both directions as Montana Highway Patrol did their best to juggle the cars converging to the parking point so revelers could get on a shuttle to see and listen to President Trump later that evening.
Some drivers said they had waited over an hour and only moved three or four car lengths. The parking lot filled up at around 3:20 p.m. to which MHP had to shut it off and divert traffic elsewhere.
The line-up alone began before lunch, as thousands ensured they had gotten to the point of pick-up to make it inside the Minuteman Aviation hanger.
SOME SANDERS County locals said that had they not found their group as they made their way to the back of the line, they would not have made it into the rally due to the large volume of supporters that turned out.
Once arriving at the hangar, Secret Service along with other law enforcement officials from Missoula and surrounding counties vetted people as they entered.
The small hangar quickly filled up with some standing hours in a prime spot to get as close to the president as they could to hear and cheer before, during and after he addressed the rally.
Upon arrival of Air Force One to Missoula International Airport, there was an opening prayer and speeches from Republicans such as Steve Daines and Matt Rosendale to the crowd.
As people stood, young and old, in the packed-to-the-rafters rally area, some said they couldn’t see the podium; however, it was an experience to just listen and be there.
Some people drove hours, and across two states to be at the rally — as far as Spokane, Wash., to see the Trump and show support.
One young man was seen sitting on the concrete floor before the rally, wearing supporter gear and donning a Trump flag around his shoulders. He said that he had just had knee surgery so he was sitting while he could before having to stand for the president.
As music filled the air, the crowd cheered and chanted during number of times both before and during the president’s speech.
THE ATMOSPHERE was electrified as Air Force One touched down at approximately 6:12 p.m. Once the convoy made it over to the rally from the plane, Trump walked up the catwalk — stopping periodically to allow people to take a photo, and to wave to the crowd.
Throughout his 73-minute rally speech, Trump was cheered when he called for building a wall along the nation’s southern border. The crowd booed when he spoke of his Democratic opposition to his policies.
Although there didn’t appear to be many protestors at the rally itself, there was a point around halfway through when Trump began talking about Sen. Jon Tester and his “lack” of policies that two people in the crowd sat a top of tractor sitting on the outside corner, holding up a Tester banner in support of the Democrat.
Although the banner was only up for around three minutes, neither the crowd nor the president seemed to acknowledge the silent opposing thoughts.
Trump also heaped praise on Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after attacking a reporter in 2017. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of guy,” Trump said. “He’s a great guy, tough cookie.”
THE CROWD by noise agreed with his backing of Gianforte, to which he then made comments directed to the press using the coined term of “fake news” as he pointed to the press pit.
At that time the crowd did turn and boo the press, though it was evident how the crowd felt, backing Trump though it wasn’t more than a few moments before they turned their attention back to him and continued to chant slogans such as “finish the wall.”
The buzz didn’t stop after the president left the rally, with a small handful of VIPs in the crowd who were able to quickly meet and greet Trump. Those that didn’t flow straight to the shuttles stayed and converged at the corner to watch Air Force One depart Missoula.