‘Save America’

Trump fills Rock the South venue for Cullman rally

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Former President Donald Trump greets crowds of supporters with souvenir “Save America” hats during Saturday’s rally. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Former President Donald J. Trump visited Cullman Saturday, drawing a crowd that filled the York Family Farm, the west side venue known for the city’s annual “Rock the South” music festival. Despite complaints from local Trump detractors that the rally would be a “super spreader” event, gates opened to a flood of visitors in the early afternoon, and incoming attendees were still lined up out to the farthest parking areas onsite when Trump took the stage that evening.

Maria Taylor and her husband, Jack Iaukea, came from Atalla to attend the event. The couple moved to Alabama from Hawaii to seek better medical care than Iaukea, an Army veteran, could receive from Veterans Administration sources in his home state.

Taylor said that her husband received poor medical treatment in Hawaii. When she sent a letter to President Trump with evidence related to the case, the administration responded with an investigation that led to a turnover in the VA office that oversaw Iaukea’s case. He would eventually receive the care he needed for his conditions, in Hawaii and later in Alabama, where members of Taylor’s family live.

“If Trump’s team hadn’t intervened, he would have died,” said Taylor, who added that their attendance at the rally fulfilled a “bucket list” item for her husband, who wanted to see the man he credited with saving his life.

Another attendee, Christine, who declined to share her last name, traveled 13 hours from North Carolina with two friends to attend the rally. She shared, “We wanted to come to a Trump rally. I hope that he actually has some good news for us; there’s some good news coming our way. And just to come and experience the feeling. There’s not a better feeling than a bunch of American-loving patriots.”

By late morning Saturday, hours before the official opening, the number of attendees had already grown to the point that State GOP Chairman John Wahl asked local media to post a request for 150 more volunteers to handle the crowds. Trump fans would not be deterred even by lightning and rain from a thunderstorm that swept through the area around 3 p.m.

After live entertainment in the afternoon, guests heard from a slate of speakers including Wahl, “My Pillow” inventor and conservative activist Mike Lindell, State Rep. Andrew Sorrell, State Sen Garlan Gudger, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, State Attorney General Steve Marshall, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville and U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (who is preparing to run for the U.S. Senate). Many of their messages echoed similar themes: the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following President Joe Biden’s rapid withdrawal of American troops, rising inflation and fuel prices, increasing dependence on foreign oil and goods and COVID-related mask and vaccine mandates.

Ainsworth said that, under Biden, the U.S. has gone from “first to worst in almost every category,” and called for the impeachment of the current President over issues like illegal immigration, critical race theory, pipeline shutdowns, taxpayer-funded abortion, the Afghanistan withdrawal and “mask mandates, vaccine passports and padlocking our children’s schools.”

Lindell created a sensation when he warned that Republicans cannot wait for the 2022 and 2024 elections but must resolve the issues of alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election, declaring, “not Trump 2024, but Trump 2021!”

Fired up by Lindell’s speech, audience members booed Brooks when he called on them to move past the 2020 election and get ready for those coming up.

After Brooks finished the last preliminary speech, eyes turned to three giant screens showing George C. Scott’s well-known “Americans love a winner” speech sequence from the motion picture “Patton.” Then came 45th President Donald Trump, tossing “Save America” hats to the crowd on his way to the podium. There he praised Alabama’s overwhelming pro-Republican vote in the 2020 election.

“We won by a record number, we won this state,” said Trump, “and we also won a lot of other states by numbers they don’t tell you about. We did have a rigged election.”

In his speech, Trump challenged the results of the 2020 election, charging multiple states with voter fraud and assuring supporters that forensic audits would show him to be the rightful winner. He also called for Republicans to rally behind their candidates in the upcoming midterm congressional elections.

Trump told supporters, “With your help, we’re going to elect our friend Mo Brooks to the U.S. Senate. We’re going to fire Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and the radical left. And we’re going to make America great again. We have been making it so great. Now they’re biting into that, but we’re not going to let that happen; we can never let that happen.”

The former president repeatedly took aim at Biden for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, condemning the administration for removing troops while leaving behind American civilians and billions of dollars worth of military equipment.

“Our military is being given to the enemy,” said Trump, who referred to the withdrawal and following humanitarian crisis as “the greatest foreign policy humiliation in the history of the United States of America.”

Trump also went after the current administration on rising inflation and fuel prices, economic policies and the immigration crisis at the southern border. He attacked the recent trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, calling it “the roadmap to the Green New Deal.”

Trump said, “Biden has obliterated our border, given up our energy independence, caused soaring inflation. He failed totally on economic and policies. I mean, you look at what’s going on; it’s crazy.”

Trump drew a smattering of boos after noting his administration’s push for development of COVID vaccines, when he encouraged his supporters to get the vaccine and said that he had gotten it himself.

After thanking a list of local and state officials who participated in the rally, Trump stated, “The radical left will stop at nothing to destroy the America we love,” adding, “We’re not going to let it happen. All of you in Alabama and with conservative patriots like Mo Brooks and others and all of the names I mentioned are fighting for us in Washington. And I have never been more confident that we will defeat the radical left. And we have to; we don’t have a choice.”

According to Trump, the rally raised $1.2 million, which will support Alabama candidates in upcoming elections.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com