GREAT FALLS – Workers set up concrete barriers and put other security measures in place as police and protesters alike geared up for President Donald Trump’s visit to Great Falls on Thursday.
Cascade County officials are expecting long lines and people to arrive early Thursday to wait outside the Four Seasons Arena at ExpoPark, where the Montana State Fair is held each year.
Officials plan to unlock the gates at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, though the arena doors won’t open until 1 p.m. There will be benches, food and nonalcoholic drinks available for those early arrivals standing in line on a day that is forecast to reach 90 degrees, officials said.
Trump is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m.
At least one group is organizing an anti-Trump rally to be held outside the 6,600-seat arena while the president is inside to campaign for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale against incumbent Democrat Jon Tester.
The vast majority of attendees are expected to be Trump supporters in a state that chose him over Democrat Hillary Clinton by 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential elections.
A statement by Trump’s re-election campaign said the president plans to speak about tax cuts, illegal immigration and other issues. Trump, who vowed that Tester would pay politically for his role in the derailment of his first Veterans’ Affairs nominee, Ronny Jackson, is also expected to promote Rosendale’s Senate campaign.
Tester was scheduled to listen to farmers’ and business owners’ concerns about Trump’s import tariffs Thursday in Billings, before heading to his farm in Big Sandy about 80 miles (129 kilometers) from Great Falls, spokeswoman Marnee Banks said.
The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office is coordinating security efforts at the ExpoPark with the U.S. Secret Service, Great Falls police and the Montana Highway Patrol.
“It’s really their show, and they ask us for support and help and our knowledge of the area and things like that,” Sheriff Bob Edwards said of the Secret Service.
An area across the midway in front of the Future Farmers of America barn will be set aside for protesters, he said.
Organizers of the anti-Trump “Grab Him by the Hypocrisy” rally say on their Facebook page that they will have speakers at the same time as the president is scheduled to speak.
“We do not need to have someone to come in and tell Montanans how to vote or who to vote for,” one of the organizers, Laura Wight, told the Great Falls Tribune. “A presidential visit should be a distinction and a point of honor. I feel that the present administration does not reflect that.”
President George W. Bush spoke at the Great Falls arena in 2005. Trump also visited Montana as a candidate in 2016 when he held a rally in Billings.
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