Donald Trump salvages Texas trip after cities turn him away, settling on smaller Dallas venue
The Trump campaign was forced briefly to abandon plans for a Thursday rally in north Texas after two municipalities refused to offer suitable venues citing overcrowding and security fears.
It what could have been embarrassing set-back, the candidate found himself on the losing end of a negotation, that seemed to have been caused in part by the chaotic nature of his campaign. One of the two cities involved said it had been given only 48 hours notice to agree to a rally and it wasn’t enough.
On Monday, the campaign sent out an advisory email to reporters listing rallies in Dallas on Thursday and Houston on Friday as “upcoming events” to “look out for”. Early on Wednesday another email appeared in reporters’ inboxes. Texas, a key state for both parties in the run-up to November’s election, had abruptly vanished.
By Wednesday afternoon, the Texas trip, which will also include two fundraising events, had been reinstated. The campaign said it had settled on holding its rally at small venue in Dallas itself. Called Gilley’s Dallas, it has made its South Side Ballroom available to the campaign. It will, however, be a squeeze. The ballroom, which was a main location in the 1980 film Urban Cowboy, can only fit 3,800 people, a paltry crowd by Mr Trump’s normal standards.
The campaign subsquently confirmed a second rally in Houston on Friday evening.
It remains possible that the Trump campaign has allowed confusion to linger over the presumptive Republican nominee’s Texas appearances because of threats from several groups in the Lone Star State – notably Hispanic grassroots organisations – to greet him with loud and and angry protests.
Had it not been for the agreement with the managers of Gilley’s, Mr Trump would have found himself with a conspicuous two-day hole in his itinerary in a week that has emerged as critical to the futures of himself and also Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
“It’s very unusual that the Republican candidate for president in this deep red state would be having trouble finding a venue for his rallies,” Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas told the local CBS station.
The first to turn him down, according to the Dallas Morning News, was Grand Prairie, just west of Dallas, where the Trump advance team had identified the Verizon Theatre, which can accommodate about 7,000 people. But local police told the campaign it was not practical, not least because of other events scheduled in the area also for Thursday evening.
Then the next-door city of Irving also made clear that it was not interested in offering an alternative site because the campaign had approached it too late. They also cited the special security considerations that a Trump rally would raise, a clear reference to other appearances by the candidate that have spawned confrontations between Trump fans and protestors and police.
“In consultation with the Irving Police Department, the city of Irving decided it was not given sufficient time – given a 48 hour notice – to gather the resources necessary to ensure the safety and security of those attending such a large-scale, high-profile event,” the city said in a statement.
There were indications that several Hispanic protest groups were gearing up to give Mr Trump as noisy a welcome to Texas as possible. Passions are running especially deep after the Orlando gay club massacre where victims were overwhelmingly Hispanic.
Domingo Garcia, one organiser, told ABC News, he was still ready should Mr Trump come after all. “We are going to be peaceful; we are going to be nonviolent. We are going to be dressed in white for peace. We are going to be carrying American flags for American values and we are going to be standing up to the bully.”
It was precisely the promise of protests like the one he had been planning that has made securing a venue so difficult, Mr Garcia added. “We’ve understood they’ve had a lot of problems getting a venue and getting a police department or law enforcement that can number deal with the types of things that happen at Trump rallies,“ he said.