THE WOODLANDS — Donald Trump on Friday used a rally in this Houston suburb to ratchet up his rhetoric against terrorism, calling the gunman in the recent Orlando terrorist attack a “son of a bitch” and imploring Americans to arm themselves and be more willing to report suspicious activity.
Reflecting on the massacre that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump wondered aloud what would have happened if more of the victims had guns of their own — and “if the bullets were going in the opposite direction, right smack in between the eyes of this maniac.”
“This son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting,” Trump continued, getting drowned out by loud applause and chants of “USA!”
Trump also spoke emphatically about the need for more Americans to be vigilant when it comes to terrorists, saying they “have to report them fast. No more games.” On the Orlando attack, Trump speculated that the intentions of the shooter, Omar Mateen, were known ahead of time by multiple people.
“His wife knew,” Trump said. “I think his father knew. I think a lot of people knew and they didn’t report him.”
Trump continued to hammer Democrats for pushing for gun control after the attack instead of speaking more forcefully about the threat of terrorism. “President Obama is trying to make terrorism into guns, and it’s not guns, folks,” Trump said.
Trump’s raucous rally here came at the end of a two-day, four-city trip to Texas, mainly for fundraising. It also coincided with a rash of reports about friction between Trump and the Republican National Committee, a notion Trump seemed to dismiss as he proclaimed that even though he is an “outsider … I think they’re starting to like me.”
“We’ve raised a lot of money over the last few days for the party,” Trump said. “The party is doing very, very well.”
Trump was introduced by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a former Ted Cruz supporter who is now behind the billionaire. Patrick, who campaigned with Trump on Friday across Texas, pitched him as the “change agent … you’ve hoping for your entire life” and predicted he would win the state so decisively it “will send the Democrats packing forever.”
Trump’s rally inside a hotel and convention center here went off without incident compared to his event the night before in Dallas, where he was interrupted at least fives times by protesters. There were no notable outbursts Friday night.
Outside the campaign venue, dozens of anti-Trump supporters held a peaceful protest bearing signs aimed at countering some of thepresumptive GOP presidential nominee’s controversial rhetoric.
Some of the signs read: “love Trumps hate,” “Houston doesn’t stand for h8,” “and “dump Trump.”
There was a heavy police presence and a few moments of tension between both groups. Some of Trump supporters shouted “Build the wall! Who’s going to pay for it? Mexico!” at the protestors.
Protesters lambasted Trump campaign proposals, including his recent renewed vow to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country if elected. They argue that he’s not fit for the presidency and is causing division among Americans.
Kate Phuah, a Houston native and Bernie Sanders supporter who was protesting, said she is strongly considering supporting Hillary Clinton in November.
“I’m still making up my mind. But if it’s anything against Trump, then yeah,” she said.
Marissa Evelyn Meraz, a protestor who has a dual citizenship in Mexico and the United States, said, “I don’t think building a wall is the solution. Living the American dream is coming here and building a life for yourself. My dad came here [from Mexico] and he now owns his own business. He employs Americans and is contributing to the economy, and he wasn’t a legal citizen until recently. So with Trump spouting that ‘Mexico is sending rapists,’ it’s not true. They are people trying to build a life for themselves.”
Ron Gunnels, a Jeb Bush supporter said the main reason he would vote for Trump is because the “Supreme Court is at stake” and believes that the businessman would “get things done.”
“I mean we have Hillary, and we’re looking at a generation under the Supreme Court. So that’s the reason why I’m supporting Trump. He’s the better choice, but I would rather have someone better than Trump — a more conservative Republican,” he said.
“I don’t think he’s a racist. He just doesn’t have a filter between his mouth and brain. He said a few things that I don’t agree with — about the [Mexican] Judge and some stuff about women. I really don’t agree with what he said.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues