This story was reported by Laura Figueroa, Nicole Fuller, Emily Ngo and David M. Schwartz. It was written by Bart Jones.
Donald Trump came home to his New York roots on Wednesday night, telling a raucous Bethpage crowd he loved them and recalling his days playing golf on the Bethpage State Park course.
A day after losing the Wisconsin primary to Sen. Ted Cruz, an unbowed Trump hit some of the major themes of his presidential run in a 37-minute address at Grumman Studios: cracking down on immigrants in the country illegally, enforcing the border, keeping U.S. companies from shifting jobs overseas and wiping out ISIS terrorists.
“It’s great to be home. This is home,” Trump said. “We love New York,” he added, recalling how he used to rise early to play golf at Bethpage.
Acknowledging the adoring crowd, Trump smiled and said: “I love these people. These are my people.”
The crowd of 9,000 to 10,000 cheered Trump, the Republican front-runner, although about 200 protesters outside denounced him. Three people inside the former Grumman hangar were escorted out of the otherwise peaceful rally.
“Don’t hurt the person,” Trump repeated several times, a clear reference to other rallies where he has been criticized for encouraging violence.
“Be gentle! Be very, very gentle” he said, but then added: “OK, get ’em out.”
Police said two of the people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in connection with a physical altercation inside the venue. No arrests took place outside, police said.
Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, speaking to reporters outside after the rally, said, “The arrests were related to a fight that occurred inside the venue.”
After the incident, Trump said “Our country has to start getting tough. We have to get vigilant. . . . We don’t want more World Trade Centers. . . . ”
“We’re going to be smart. We’re going to vigilant. . . . We’re not going to be politically correct all the time.
“We’re going to knock the hell of ISIS, believe me.” Then at another point, he added: “We don’t fight like people from Long Island. We don’t fight like people from New York.”
Then he stood and listened as the crowd chanted “Build the wall!” referring to Trump’s pledge to erect a wall to keep out immigrants entering the country illegally along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump punctuated his address with several “I love you’s” to the crowd, while he pounded on themes that have resonated with his supporters.
“I love the Mexican people. I love Hispanics,” he said. “They’re unbelievable people.” But too many companies are moving to Mexico and other countries, Trump said.
“We’re going to keep our companies here and we’re bringing companies back to the United States,” he said.
He added: “We are going to have a strong border. We are going to build the wall. It will be a real wall.”
“Who is going to pay for the wall?” he said. The crowd shouted in response. “Mexico! Mexico!”
He said the Carrier air conditioning company is relocating to Mexico, but that if he is elected president he will charge it a 35 percent tax on each unit when it comes back to United States.
He took several shots at his Republican opponent “Lyin Ted Cruz.” “I think you can forget about him, forget about him,” Trump said.
Going after his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, he asked the crowd: “How bad is Hillary, how bad? . . . I will beat Hillary so badly in the general election. . . . Believe me, it will be fun. And we haven’t started on her yet.”
“Maybe with the email scandal something is going to happen,” he said, referring to the investigation into Clinton’s use of email during her tenure as secretary of state.
Later on, he attacked the media, saying “The press is so bad . . . They are terrible. They are terrible people.”
He said the media will never show the crowds of people at the arena. “The cameras never want to scan my audiences because they’re so big and so incredible,” he said.
“So here’s the story,” Trump repeated several times.
He said those who attended would look back on the rally as “a great evening” where they witnessed the start of a process where “America will be first.”
He said “You’re going to be proud of your country again. You’re going to be proud of your president again.”
Moving to the education debate, he said, “We are going to get rid of Common Core. . . . We are going to have local education.”
“We’re going to be smart. We’re not going to be politically correct,” he told the crowd.
The candidate took the stage at 7:20 p.m. as the crowd shouted “USA! USA!”
“We are going to start winning again with this country. . . . We never win,” he said. “We are going to start winning again, folks.”
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who gave birth just a week ago, introduced her father, saying he will “make America great again.”
“My father is battle-tested,” she said. “He’s a doer. He has a long track record of winning.”
Earlier, Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle announced to the crowd that the county party was officially endorsing Trump, saying, “We must unite under the Republican banner.”
LaValle said Trump’s campaign was “a message to our leaders that’s it’s time for Americans to be Americans.”
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who also declared his endorsement of Trump, drew loud cheers as he reminded the crowd the rally’s Grumman site “is where they put a man on the moon. This is where history was made.”
Mangano said the nation needed a president who could deliver a strong economy for the state and country.
“Donald Trump will deliver that strong economy,” Mangano said.
Nassau GOP leader Joseph Mondello, who had declared his endorsement of Trump a few weeks ago, told the crowd that the GOP front-runner “is the leader that our nation needs at this time. He’s a businessman with a history of getting things done.
“We’re going to have a president who will secure our borders,” Mondello said, as the crowd chanted “Build the wall! Build the wall!”
Trump later singled out Mondello, thanking him for his support and calling him “Big Joe.”
Two hours before the 7 p.m. rally at Grumman Studios was set to begin, thousands of people were packed into the hangar-like space. The crowd, which was expected to grow to 12,000, was dotted with red “Make America Great Again” caps, Trump’s campaign slogan.
A banner several yards long bearing the same slogan was hung on one wall and two massive television screens broadcasting Trump’s interview with Barbara Walters had been placed on either side of the stage.
The crowd cheered many of the statements Trump made in the video clip, including those critical of President Barack Obama.
Some began chants of “USA! USA!”
Carmine Dorsi, 53, of Massapequa, said Trump’s candidacy motivated him to switch his registration from Democratic to Republican.
“He’s speaking my language, he’s speaking the words coming out of my soul,” Dorsi said, adding that he sided with Trump’s positions on national security and immigration.
Meanwhile, protesters outside lambasted Trump.
Jane and Paul Federman of Valley Stream held signs saying “Stop Fascism” with a picture of Trump and Adolf Hitler.
“This is the first time I’m afraid of an election,” said Jane Federman, a physician, pointing to the candidate’s rhetoric about immigrants and Muslims.
“Don’t let him anywhere near a nuclear button,” said Bill Squires, 63, a retired engineer from Bethpage.
At about 6 p.m., an announcement instructed the crowd inside on how to address the protesters.
“If protesters do start demonstrating . . . please do not touch” them, the audience was told. Instead the announcer encouraged the crowd to hold up a sign and shout “Trump! Trump! Trump!” to drown out the protesters.
Many in the crowd jeered at the instructions.
By 5 p.m. a contingent of about 100 anti-Trump protesters had gathered at the entrance to the Grumman property where supporters walked and drove to the rally. By 6:30 p.m., that group had grown to 200, with 200 other people outside who supported Trump, but were not able to get inside.
They were separated by Nassau police and vendors selling Trump shirts and buttons, and there were few engagements. One Trump supporter yelled at them, “Build the wall!”
Protesters later chanted “Dump Trump.”
Andy Stepanian, 37 of Huntington, said, “I feel like he has tapped into an undercurrent and turned up the vitriol.”
The Bethpage event marked the first large-scale campaign stop on Trump’s home turf, New York, where 96 delegates are at stake. The state’s primary is April 19.
While the massive line outside the Grumman Studios was packed mainly with supporters wearing Trump caps and campaign buttons, some said they came to the event because they were undecided on a candidate.
Lenore Pappas, 59, of Ronkonkoma a self-declared independent, said she was undecided about who to vote for in the general election and wanted to hear Trump in person to “feel the vibes” of the GOP contender.
“I want to hear him, see his expressions, get a better feel for the type of president he might be,” said Pappas, adding she wanted a president who could “keep the peace.”
Before entering the rally site, eventgoers were screened through metal detectors, then swept by guards with handheld detectors and their bags were thoroughly searched.
Sal Giannetto, 88, of Plainview, was waiting near the front of the line to get in with his two daughters. The Korean War veteran said he had never before registered to vote but did so this year with the goal of casting his ballot for Trump.
“Our sacrifice is for Donald Trump and his policies,” he said of veterans.
“He’s not a politician,” Giannetto, who worked in the automotive industry, said of what appealed to him about Trump. “He speaks an everyday language. . . . He can run the country like a business.”
Giannetto said he was no fan of Trump’s Republican rival, Ted Cruz: “He’s a liar, that guy. Tell him to go back to Canada.”
Giannetto, who uses a wheelchair, had arrived at Grumman Studios and waited in line beginning at 2 p.m. He and his family said he wasn’t worried about the cold.
“Trump warms his heart,” said Giannetto’s daughter Sandra Neumann, 62, of East Northport, who said her occupation is “Trump supporter.”
Earlier, Al Libardi’s car moved slowly down Hazel Street near the Grumman Studios, as he tried to make it home from the grocery store before road closures took effect.
“I had to get milk,” said Libardi, 80, who lives in a senior community near Grumman. “This is ridiculous. This guy’s gotta come here? He had all the places in the world to come, why’d he have to come here?”
Libardi, a Republican, said he won’t vote for Trump.
“He would be good if he didn’t talk the way he did about the women, the people coming in and everything,” said Libardi, as he idled in traffic.
Trump supporter Ed Witt, 51, of Farmingdale, wore a “Make America Great Again” hat as he waited with his 21-year-old son for a shuttle bus to take them to the rally.
Witt liked that Trump doesn’t hold his tongue. And, Witt said, he likes Trump’s strong stance against terrorism, particularly in light of recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.
“I like that he wants to prevent migrants from coming here, that I think want to kill us and he’s the only one outspoken about preventing that,” said Witt.
“I don’t want to see my kids get killed in the future. . . . I don’t want us to become France or Belgium,” Witt said.
Six people were treated for dehydration and exhaustion at the rally and were taken to a hospital. Seven others were treated on the scene. Most of those who fell ill were elderly, police said.