Preparations were in high gear Thursday at Selland Arena in anticipation of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Fresno on Friday.
A cadre of Fresno Police and Fire department leaders were joined by U.S. Secret Service agents and Trump campaign staff for a pre-rally walk around the downtown arena. Earlier this week, the Fresno Police Department estimated that about 70 of its officers would be involved in security. By Thursday that number was rising, but Fresno police Capt. Andy Hall declined to say by how many, or what units – motorcycle, horse-mounted patrol, helicopters, SWAT – would be brought in for the event.
“Until the event is over, I am not prepared to provide the exact number of officers assigned to the event or disclose our tactics,” Hall said.
He did say that in addition to the Secret Service, “we have also reached out to allied agencies for assistance,” responding to a question about whether the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office or California Highway Patrol would be involved.
Mark Standriff, a spokesman for the city, said the Trump visit is expected to cost Fresno about $22,000 for police services, “half of which is associated with providing security inside of Selland Arena.” Who’s going to pick up that tab remains unclear.
“We were told by Trump campaign officials that local agencies are responsible for providing public safety services related to events involving presidential candidates,” Standriff said Thursday. “We are in the process of confirming this claim.”
If that’s right, the city will count on parking fees at Selland Arena and other nearby city parking garages to offset some of those expenses. “If not, we will bill the Trump campaign for event security within Selland Arena,” Standriff said.
Outside the arena on Thursday, parking meters on M Street were covered with “no parking” signs. Things were quiet, save for the banging by workers making repairs to the entry doors of the building. A couple of arena workers were also doing some touch-up painting of exterior stairway handrails. One painter said more workers were inside setting up the arena for the rally. But no media were being allowed inside Thursday afternoon for a look.
Crowd control is expected to be a key concern for police and campaign officials, given the volatile atmosphere that has prevailed between Trump supporters and protesters at the candidate’s recent rallies in other cities.
No die-hard supporters of The Donald had shown up by Thursday afternoon. But one Trump supporter, Fresno businessman Michael Der Manouel Jr., said he anticipated a huge crowd. “This is going to be the biggest political event in the history of Fresno,” Der Manouel said. As of late Wednesday, more than 8,500 tickets had been reserved through Trump’s campaign website, and Der Manouel said he believed the number of requests could exceed 15,000.
If Der Manouel’s estimate is anywhere close, demand would easily outstrip Selland Arena’s capacity – potentially disappointing thousands of Trump fans.
The previous high-water mark for a politician’s visit occurred in 1996, when an estimated 8,000 people gathered at Dailey Elementary School in Fresno to hear then-President Bill Clinton.
The rally for Trump is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., and the arena doors will open three hours earlier.
Before addressing the crowd of thousands, Trump will meet with central San Joaquin Valley farmers and attend a small VIP reception. Der Manouel said the meeting with farmers will include a wide array of the industry, including corporate agriculture, small family farmers, dairies, growers and ranchers.
Neither Der Manouel nor Trump California coordinator Tim Clark would name names. But prominent west side rancher John Harris said his company will be represented at the meeting; he won’t be attending because he is at a beef cattle meeting in San Diego. Harris said he thinks that Harris Ranch Chief Operating Officer William Bourdeau will attend.
Der Manouel said he is attending for the experience, if nothing else, and noted the historic nature of this week for Fresno with three presidential campaigns visiting the city: former President Bill Clinton campaigned Monday on behalf of his wife, Hillary, at Fresno State; Trump on Friday; and Clinton’s Democratic Party competitor Bernie Sanders is scheduled to speak Sunday at a rally at the Fresno Fairgrounds in southeast Fresno.