An almost carnival-like atmosphere surrounded the Janesville Convention Center Tuesday, as thousands turned out to hear what Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had to say to voters ahead of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary election.
Janesville police said there was a crowd of 1,000 people inside the venue, with another thousand outside the event listening on speakers. Several hundred protesters also turned up, with many carrying signs with slogans such as “Dump Trump” and “No hate in our state.”
Trump took the stage almost an hour later than scheduled, firing up the crowd by talking about the movement behind his campaign. “I’m a messenger, and this is something that’s so special, and so amazing.”
Trump wasted little time going after Governor Scott Walker, who endorsed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the race for the GOP presidential nomination earlier in the day. “Am I going to say he’s doing a great job? He’s not doing a great job,” Trump said, as he pointed to state deficit numbers and drops in the labor force under Walker’s tenure as governor.
Of the thousands that lined up for the event, many said they just wanted a chance to see Trump and learn more about him, with some describing him as the only candidate outside of the establishment who can bring about change in Washington. Many of the protesters argued that Trump’s message is “dangerous” and promotes racism and xenophobia.
Police said there were six arrests for disorderly conduct, after protesters refused to leave the lobby of the venue. Officers are also looking for two suspects in an incident that involved a 15-year-old girl in the crowd being pepper sprayed by a “non-law enforcement” person, which also hit a 19-year-old woman. Police said they are investigating claims that another person in the crowd groped the 15-year-old.
Trump left Janesville for Milwaukee, where he took part in a CNN town hall event with fellow Republican candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Trump will be back on the campaign trail Wednesday, with events scheduled in Appleton and De Pere.
Reporters Stan Stricker and Andrea Morrow at affiliate WCLO contributed to this report.
UPDATE: This story was updated to include additional information released by police about an alleged incident in the crowd, which was released after it was originally published.