DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The email announcing Donald Trump’s rally in Dallas hit Neal Pyles during his lunch hour on Wednesday. Within minutes, he and a friend had signed up to go, unwilling to miss this moment in history. “It’s something to tell your kids, that we were there,” Pyles said.
Grant Stephens also got himself a ticket, even though he is not a Trump fan. “Who doesn’t want to be there? Who doesn’t want to witness it? I think it’s probably going to set a precedent for campaigns in the future,” he said.
In preparation for the rally, hundreds of police officers on Wednesday engaged in crowd control training at Fair Park, working to fend off actors who were pelting them with trash. Because, on Thursday, those officers will be tasked with keeping the peace between Trump’s supporters and his protestors.
“Our job is to make it peaceful and be prepared in case it’s not peaceful,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Cotner with the Dallas Police Department. “We’re focusing on the peaceful part. We’re optimistic it will be peaceful.”
“We could definitely get caught in the crossfire if something bad happens,” said Devon Mitchell, another ticket holder.
After trouble booking a last-minute location, the Trump campaign turned to Gilley’s near downtown Dallas. The venue’s south side ballroom fits almost 4,000 people. “It was last night that we were contacted,” stated Gilley’s general manager Jay Stewart on Wednesday. “We did a walk-through for them last night and everything synced up.”
Gilley’s has hosted many politicians before — including President Barack Obama in March — but Stewart said that his venue is seeing more backlash this time than usual. “Phone call, email, social media, everything,” he explained. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and, all I can say to everybody is, again, we are an event venue. We’re here to host events. We have no political affiliation.”
The venue is located less than one block from police headquarters, and several officers were already at Gilley’s early Thursday morning. Trump supporters started showing up early as well, including Chris Mayfield and Eddy Torres from Arlington, who were ready to be a part of this moment in history.
“I think Dallas is a big Trump supporting city,” said Torres. “I think he made a very wise decision to be here.”
“We’re going to sell Donald Trump T-shirts, lanyards, buttons,” added Mayfield, “anything to support Donald Trump.”
Protestors are planning to gather across the street from Gilley’s, and hope to leave around 30 minutes before the event ends in order to prevent any possible violence. Meanwhile, police are set to start closing South Lamar Street at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, between Cadiz Street and Belleview Street. The rally starts at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night. Traffic delays are expected in this area.