Organizers of Donald Trump’s April 17 rally at First Niagara Center expect it to rank as the biggest event of his New York campaign and possibly the largest indoor gathering of his presidential effort so far.
If their predictions hold true, it would mean that more than 19,000 supporters of the front-running Republican candidate will jam the downtown Buffalo hockey arena. It also appears that a major counterdemonstration by Trump opponents could be in the works, with almost 2,000 people telling two Facebook organizers that they plan to attend.
That prompts Michael R. Caputo, an adviser to Carl P. Paladino – the 2010 GOP candidate for governor and honorary co-chairman of Trump’s New York campaign – to sound his own warnings.
“If the fascists in the Buffalo left want to disrupt this rally, law enforcement will be there to deal with them,” he said.
Although Trump’s supporters and the candidate himself have been accused of fostering rally atmospheres that incite fistfights and confrontations at past events in Chicago and elsewhere, Caputo said the campaign has learned from experience and works hard to tamp down emotions.
But he also accused local Trump opponents of planning demonstrations that could disrupt the event, and even attempting to snare enough online tickets to present images of a half-empty arena that would be nationally televised.
Indeed, a Thursday Facebook post under the heading of #nevertrump asks demonstrators to duplicate “what happened in Chicago and we can try to make sure Trump’s rally is unsuccessful again.”
“There are some true believers out there who think their social justice war can be won on the steps of First Niagara Center,” Caputo responded. “There is a concentrated effort by Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans to make sure Mr. Trump will not be president of the United States.”
Trump organizers are already pegging the Buffalo event as key to a successful New York campaign.
After Trump’s Tuesday drubbing by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary, “a show of strength is now extremely important” in a major Northeast state such as New York, Caputo said.
As a result, the last gathering of the New York campaign is slated for First Niagara “by design,” Caputo said, adding that he believes that all tickets will be claimed within hours of the online announcement.
Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, who attended Wednesday’s event on Long Island, said he harbors no doubts about drawing a large crowd to First Niagara Center.