In deep-blue Broward County, throngs of former President Donald Trump’s supporters flocked to the edge of the Everglades Saturday clad in red, white and blue to see America’s 45th president and other conservatives speak at the latest stop of the American Freedom Tour.
Anna Italino, a 21-year-old from Deerfield Beach accompanied by her three young friends clad in an assortment of “Let’s Go Brandon” merchandise, was pumped to see Trump for the first time.
“He’s honest and for real,” she said. “We are very excited, and we want to hear everything.”
Italino has stood by Trump since 2016, even with little sentiment from others in her generation, she said.
“It’s frustrating really because people are very close-minded and don’t want Trump just because he is honest,” Italino said.
Italino was among a large crowd of conservatives who paid to see Trump and surrogates such as conservative pundit Candace Owens talk at the private event, held at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise. Tickets ranged in price from $9 to $6,999. An American Freedom Tour representative told the Miami Herald that ticket fees would go towards paying speakers and the cost of putting on the event. (The event did not offer credentials to the media, so the Herald paid the cheapest price of admission to enter the arena and cover the event.)
Italino said she is hoping to see Trump on a 2024 ticket with Owens as his running mate.
“We want to see Trump back in office because [President] Joe Biden is doing nothing,” Italino said.
With Trump set to speak in the late afternoon, a sea of red started hours prior from the stadium’s parking lot to the entrance as dozens of cars dawned an array of Trump flags, including “Trump 2024” and “Make America Great Again.”
Attendees wore MAGA hats and draped campaign flags over their shoulders. They came from all around.
Larissa Martins, who is Brazilian, had her country’s flag waving behind her as she held a “Trump — Pence 2020 Flag”.
Sylvia Dudley, a 72-year-old who just moved from Michigan to the West Palm Beach area, said she was excited to see Trump for the first time.
“We drive by his house [at Mar-a-Lago] … and we get excited and say, ‘Yay Trump! Keep at it!’” she said. “We needed him because he is a person who you punch him and keeps getting back up.”
Dudley also felt it a duty to come and support.
“We want to show the country we are for these conservative values, which the Republicans have,” she said. “Trump especially led the way in bringing our country back, and we want to support him and let him know that we want him back….”
The hot Florida sun was in full force, pounding down on many eager to escape the heat. Inside, they found air conditioning and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and a featured speaker of the event, signing copies of his father’s photo book “Our Journey Together.”
Genie Samuel, a 66-year-old who has lived in Florida since the 90s, said she thinks Trump is the target of vitriol. “Sometimes I wish people would have a little less hate in their hearts.”
She isn’t as sure that Trump will run in 2024 as others are, but says she is looking for someone who cares.
“It would be nice just to have someone to come in and care about our people,” Samuel said. “No violence. Changes need to be made, but I still don’t think violence is the answer. What do I hope for? Peace on Earth.”
Trump graced the stage after 5 p.m., beginning his speech following a clip of a monologue from the 1970 film “Patton” played on Jumbotrons that included talk of killing Nazis.
As “God Bless the U.S.A” by Lee Greenwood blared on speakers overhead, Trump ran down a checklist of what he said are the failings of the Biden administration — including inflation, the exit of the U.S. military from Afghanistan and the “assault” of American “heritage.”
“As I stand before you today, Joe Biden and the socialist left are reeling havoc on our nation at a record speed,” he said.
He stated that in the 2022 midterm elections America will be taken over by a “red wave.” And he continued to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election — and tease a run in 2024.
“We won twice,” he said, referring to 2016 and 2020. “And we may have to do it again.”
Miami Herald staff writer Bianca Padró Ocasio contributed to this report.