WILKES-BARRE — Hundreds of President Donald Trump supporters lined up early at the Mohegan Sun Arena ahead of Trump's visit to Pennsylvania on Thursday night.
"I wouldn't miss this for the world," Jake Henry, 29, of Scranton said. "I was here at 4 a.m. waiting to get in. Like him or not it is not often we get to see the president come to our area."
Trump, who last visited Wilkes-Barre in 2016 when he was campaigning for president, was back to campaign again. This time he was stumping for a fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton.
Barletta is challenging Democrat Bob Casey, of Scranton, for Casey's U.S. Senate seat.
"Lou (Barletta) is a man of the people," Devin Russell, 47, of Wilkes-Barre said. "I think Lou will do the job he says and he is for us. That's what I want to see in Washington, someone who fights for the people that voted for him."
Rain fell quickly and heavy at around 1 p.m., when the lines to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, began to really fill up. Some carried umbrella's and some did not.
"Let it rain," said Mark Scallet, 44, of Plains Township, who did not have an umbrella. "I would stand in a blizzard to be able to say I was there when the president came to visit."
Stacey Mahon, 37, of Kingston, said she knew it was going to rain but she didn't care.
"I brought my umbrella and I was prepared for this," she said. "It really doesn't matter because I get to tell my friends I was up close to listen to the president speak."
Shikellamy High School JROTC instructor Joe Walsh was front and center during the rally. He said he couldn’t wait to listen to Trump.
“I am proud of our president and his accomplishments,” Walsh said. “This is a chance of a lifetime and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Some residents said they came to see what a Trump rally was like.
“I may not like him very much,” David Blackburn, of Wilkes-Barre, said. “But I wanted to come and at least listen to him speak.”
As people arrived for the rally, several hundred protesters stood near the arena at the intersection at Highland Park Boulevard and the Interstate 81 exit ramp.
Dwayne Heisler, of Bloomsburg, a member of Action Together Northeastern PA, said a wall of mounted police officers and vehicles and dogs blocked off the protesters. He and Lisa Napersky, of Mountaintop, a board member and co-lead of the group's Luzerne County chapter, estimated the crowd of protesters at 400 to 500.
"It was amazing," Heisler said afterward. "I've never seen that many people in Wilkes-Barre doing that kind of work."
He said protesters were in three different spots, carrying signs with messages such as "HATE HAS NO HOME HERE," "You can't fight ignorance but you can vote it out," and "LIAR LOCK HIM UP."
"There was giant papier-mache head of Lou Barletta," Heisler said.
He said the Central Susquehanna Valley was represented by protesters from Bloomsburg, Danville and Lewisburg.
"We're really standing up for our democracy," Heisler said. "We feel our democracy is under attack."
He added, "If you're not going to take a stand when a child is put in a cage, when are you going to? But that requires compassion. We filled the streets today with real patriots."
Napersky said she was energized by the number of people that turned out.
"It was a very peaceful demonstration on our part," she said. "The people are very passionate and geared up for the election."
She and Heisler said one woman in her 70s was the only arrest they saw.
"When we marched up to the intersection by the arena, the mounted police asked everybody to move up onto the sidewalk," Napersky said.
"She didn't get back to the sidewalk fast enough," Heisler said. "He said police circled the horses around her and handcuffed her."
She was later released, he said, but is facing a citation. He said if anyone wants to help with her legal defense, they can contact Action Together. The group's email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ActionTogether.NEPA/, and website, or www.ActionTogetherNEPA.org.
Reporter Joe Sylvester also contributed to this report.