Outside the arena, reporters witnessed at least one protestor taking a swing at a Trump supporter and other near altercations as the two sides stood inches apart while hurling emotional insults at each other.
Law enforcement officials seemed to successfully keep the event safe despite the many fever-pitched exchanges as perhaps a thousand protestors massed outside the civic center for hours before and after the event, taunting those coming and going into the civic center.
During his speech, Trump went through a list of problems he vowed to “fix” and rights he intended to “protect.” Among those were veterans rights, repeal of Obamacare, appointing Supreme Court justices, protecting Second Amendment rights, building the wall on the Mexican border, rebuilding the military and reforming the tax code.
The most vocal audience reactions, however, came when he attacked Hillary Clinton.
“Our vision of hope stands in stark contrast to my opponent’s campaign of hate,” Trump said. “Hillary Clinton has been running a hate-filled and negative campaign with no policy, no solutions, and no new ideas. By contrast, I’ve been going around the country offering very detailed plans for reform and change. All of these reform plans are available on our website, and they’re extensive.”
Trump also criticized Clinton for her actions as secretary of state when donors to her foundation got access to meetings in the State Department.
“Nothing is so dangerous as when a public official puts their office up for sale, and that’s what she did folks,” Trump said, eliciting jeers of “Lock her up, lock her up” from the audience, some holding their hands over their heads as if wearing handcuffs.
A significant portion of the speech, however, focused on Clinton’s recent comments describing Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” a line she has tried to walk back since mentioning it at a fundraiser last week. She went on to label some of his supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.”
“When my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hard-working American patriots who love your county and want a better nation for all our people.”
Trump ushered a handful of supporters on stage to address Clinton’s comments, among them a couple who were African American and had spent their careers in education, as a pastor, a working mother and an NRA supporter.
“Do I look deplorable?” the mom asked the crowd, pointing at herself and laughing.
Trump also spent some time discussing trade and the loss of jobs, waving his arm across the crowd and saying he knew what had happened to manufacturing in North Carolina and he was going to change things.
“We are going to protect our workers. Under my administration our workers are going to come first,” he said.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani opened for Trump, a surprise speaker that had not been mentioned in any pre-rally press releases. He warmed the crowd up by tearing into Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary has been running a campaign of hatred, anger, meanness and cruelty,” he said.
He also made reference to the “basket of deplorables” comment, a line that for now seems to have gotten emblazoned in the stump speeches of Trump and all his supporters.
“We’ve known for a long time why we don’t like her, but now we know why she doesn’t like us,” Giuliani said.
Asheville city officials estimated the crowd inside the Civic Center at nearly 7,000.