Thousands of folks packed the American Airlines Center Monday night, but they weren’t there for a Mavericks game or a concert. They were there for Donald Trump.
The campaign gave away 20,000 tickets to see the celebrity GOP presidential candidate. There were folks scattered around the nosebleeds, but the arena wasn’t entirely full. Much of the crowd was white, conservative and independently minded -- like the Yeagers of Fairview.
The Yeagers say they trust Trump: He’s rich enough to be independent – and he understands what regular folks need.
“It’s getting back to the people,” Dan Yeager said.
“He’ll be in, get it done, and get out,” Eileen Yeager said.
Before the rally, Vaughn Thompson was buying beers at the busy concession stands.
“Two Ziegenbocks, please.”
Thompson came with a friend – and he just wanted to see Donald Trump be Donald Trump.
“This rally’s gonna be much better with alcohol,” Thompson said.
Trump was late coming in – it was rush hour in Dallas -- but once the warmup acts got started, and the pledge of allegiance recited, it was clear that this was a crowd ready to be revved.
“The next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump!” the announcer declared.
The Donald delivered. It was a long, winding speech – he spoke for more than an hour -- no teleprompters, he said, just some notes. Mostly, it was bread and butter:
Bash the Republican establishment, folks like strategist Karl Rove.
“He’s terrible, he’s terrible,” Trump said.
Crack a joke about his looks.
“Can you see in the back – they have the best view – can you see it’s really my hair?” Trump said.
Talk about his wealth.
“I made $200 million, can you believe it? From a television show!”
Then Trump delved into more substantive issues: Support for veterans. Put tough-minded negotiators at the table with Iran. Repeal and replace Obamacare with something much better. The biggest applause line, though: An unrelenting approach to immigration – calling the United States a dumping ground for the rest of the world.
“We have to build a wall folks,” Trump said. “We have to do it.”
Inside, the crowd cheered.
Outside, another crowd cheered.
The fervor inside was matched only by the thousand or so anti-Trump activists outside. The League of United Latin American Citizens organized a “Dump the Trump” rally and marched through parts of downtown holding signs and piñatas in the form of Trump’s head.
“Join with us, stand up to that bully and tell him we’re not gonna take that any more,” a speaker told the protesters.
Activist Hadi Jawad says Trump and his supporters should stop bashing immigrants.
“This politics of division and spewing hated and setting neighbor against neighbor is not really the way to go forward, is not about what America is about and these are not our values as Americans,” Jawad said.
In one night in Dallas, two rallies with two takes on America’s values.
Video: Trump on immigration
Video: Watch Trump's speech
More coverage of Trump's speech: 'It's disgusting what's happening'
The Associated Press has more details about Trump's speech:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says the United States is "a dumping ground for the rest of the world" as he is lashing out again at immigrants in the country illegally.
The billionaire addressed thousands of Texas supporters Monday night at Dallas' American Airlines Center. The 20,000-capacity venue was at least three-quarters full for the evening rally.
Trump's fiery rhetoric on immigration has defined his presidential campaign from the very beginning. Some GOP officials have encouraged him to soften his tone, yet he's largely refused.
He said Monday "it's disgusting what's happening in our country."
The strategy may play well among the GOP's more conservative voters. But it threatens to hurt the party's standing among a crucial and growing bloc of Hispanic voters in the general election.
Hundreds of critics of Trump's statements on Mexican immigrants and immigration went on the march to protest his rally.
More than 1,000 people participated in the Monday march and demonstration organized by the North Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens. They marched from the Dallas Roman Catholic cathedral to the American Airlines Center. Some marchers carried signs criticizing Trump and at least one carried a Trump piñata.
There were no disturbances and no reports of arrests at what was promoted as a "Dump Trump" rally.
'I have a little debate coming up'
Donald Trump's raucous presidential bid turned out thousands here Monday night for a freewheeling rally that easily qualified as the biggest 2016 campaign event so far in Texas.
The billionaire businessman's remarks, which clocked in at more than an hour, covered plenty of familiar territory: his frontrunner status, his world-class deal-making skills and dogged determination to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. But he also offered some newer material, particularly in advance of his second debate Wednesday with his GOP rivals in California.
"I have a little debate coming up on Wednesday," Trump said. "I hear they're all going after me. Whatever. Whatever."
He later offered a warning specifically for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who has cultivated a chummy relationship with Trump. Cruz "happens to be a good guy," Trump said, "but if he comes out and attacks me on Wednesday night, I'll take it back immediately."
.@realDonaldTrump: america desperate for a win. "We're going to have so many victories" he says to big cheers.
— Christopher Connelly (@hithisischris) September 14, 2015
— Christopher Connelly (@hithisischris) September 14, 2015
TRUMP: "We're going to take care of our vets because our vets are treated like third class citizens!" Crowd on its feet again.#TrumpInDallas
— Jason Whitely (@JasonWhitely) September 15, 2015
KERA's Bill Zeeble, The Texas Tribune and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Mike Stone/Reuters