All eyes will be on Pickens, South Carolina, as thousands drive into the small downtown for former President Donald Trump’s downtown rally on Saturday, July 1.
In a previous News story, Pickens Police Chief Randal Beach said a crowd of 30,000 is ‘very possible’ for the event on East Main Street. The city of Pickens’ population is 3,370.
Trump is scheduled to speak shortly after 1 p.m.
Around 11 a.m., a secret service agent told the News there are 5,000 inside the gate and approximately 10,000 still in line. Beach said he estimates there are 30,000 people in the city for the Trump rally and the Independence Day Spectacular.
As the event started with a prayer, supporters continued to file through the 10 security checkpoints at the gate on East Main Street. Supporters were still filing in at noon as the line stretched around four blocks.
Secret service agents could be seen on top of storefront buildings on East Main Street as a section of the crowd chanted “USA!”
As temperatures went over 90 degrees on a muggy, early summer day, one woman near the media zone appeared to faint. The Trump team rushed to her aid and brought a chair and water for her to recover. Shortly after, Trump organizers weaved their way through the crowd and started handing out water to the large crowd.
Kenny McPeters, chairman of Pickens County Emergency Services Board, estimated at least 50 people, mostly elderly, are have been treated with air conditioning and water at a temporary shelter inside Pickens First Baptist Church only two blocks from where Trump is speaking.
Beach said one person who tried to enter at the gate had to surrender his pistol. The person can retrieve their gun when they leave the rally, Beach said.
Trump is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m., with guest speakers beginning at 11 a.m. The Trump rally coincides with the Pickens Independence Day Spectacular, which wraps up at 9 p.m. with fireworks at dusk at Bruce Field.
Trump half-heartedly defends Graham after boos
∎Early in Trump’s speech, he half-heartedly defended Lindsey Graham after the crowd booed US Senator Lindsey Graham and drowned out his remarks.
“We’re going to love him. He’s half and half. When we need those liberal votes, we need him. We know the good ones. We know the bad ones too,” Trump said.
∎Later in his speech, he mentioned Graham, again, by name and the crowd began booing again.
“I’m going to have to work on these people. He’s there when you need him,” Trump told the crowd. “‘Do you mind if I come down and campaign a little for you, Lindsey?’ He was one of my earliest endorsements from the go and I appreciate it, Lindsey.”
More from Trump’s speech in Pickens SC
∎Trump continued to invoke a case involving former President Bill Clinton’s personal records as he faces federal charges for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.
∎Trump also continued to deny wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of engaging in “election interference.”
∎Trump noted his big lead in early polls in SC against the growing GOP field, which includes SC Sen. Tim Scott, who Trump called a “good man” and former SC Gov. Nikki Haley.
There was a generally polite crowd reaction to Scott. Haley’s name was met by boos.
∎Trump pledged to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the “Biden crime family.” Trump said he has previously held back because of “respect for the office,” but now Trump says he’ll now speak “much differently” regarding Biden after his own federal indictment.
∎Trump read “The Snake,” written in 1963 by social activist Oscar Brown Jr. and a Trump staple since 2016. He’s used it to warn of what he sees as the dangers of illegal immigrants and refugees allowed into the US.
∎Near the end of his speech, Trump added statements about and comparisons to Revolutionary War hero, Gen. Andrew Pickens.
∎According to Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press, Trump gave a quintessential version of his stump, steeped in a bit more patriotism than usual given the upcoming July 4th holiday.
“Together we will complete the mission,” he said, speaking for an hour-plus. “We will win a righteous and magnificent victory.”
∎Trump concluded his speech around 2:42 p.m.
Crowd boos Sen. Lindsey Graham at Trump rally in SC
Graham, from nearby Oconee County, said he was going to help Trump win the 2024 general election and even pointed out that he was part of the Senate Judiciary Committee that helped bolster the Supreme Court’s conservative sheen.
Despite that, the crowd remained unmoved and the booing continued.
Easley resident Michael Propes, 60, said Graham was trying to side with Trump to give his own political career a new lease of life.
“I voted for him years ago, I voted for him last year, but we need to vote him out,” Propes said.
Other Trump supporters joined and echoed Propes.
William Ballew, 74, was tired of Graham “wishy-washiness.”
“(Graham) doesn’t need to use Trump to get where he needs to go again,” Billew said.
He felt the South Carolina Senator sided with Democrats when it suited him and pedestalized Trump when it mattered. This made him an unreliable lawmaker, Ballew said.
Rushingbrook Children’s Choir of Greenville SC perfoms
The Rushingbrook Children’s Choir of Greenville sang at the Trump rally. Trump invited the Greenville group, whose performance in the US Capitol was halted by police earlier this year. Authorities cited a misunderstanding. – Meg Kinnard, Associated Press
Trump SC leadership team opens rally
Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette paid homage to Trump’s businessman persona.Back in 2015, when she was a business owner, Evette said she looked at the political field and saw that it needed a change.“We need a businessman at the helm,” she recalled telling her husband.
He was joined by South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Joe Wilson and Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, among others.
Trump’s SC leadership team: Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Congressman Joe Wilson, Congressman Russel Fry, Congressman Will Timmons, former U.S. Attorney Pete McCoy Jr. and former Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.
Donald Trump lands in Pickens SC
As Trump One flew over an excited crowd a little after 11 a.m., U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, took the stage to express her disdain for the Biden administration and how it had “weaponized” federal agencies.Greene echoed a common right-wing refrain that the federal charges and indictments against Trump were a political manhunt. The Georgia Congresswoman defended Trump’s handling of classified materials. She said Trump had the right to view any document due to the Presidential Records Act.
However, the Presidential Records Act doesn’t allow presidents to take classified documents with them when they leave office. Legal experts say that a 2012 case involving tapes in Clinton’s possession is not relevant to Trump’s case since the tapes were considered personal records, not classified presidential records like those Trump allegedly had at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Read more.In the past few months, Greene has been instrumental in pushing for articles of impeachment for President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrill Garland among others in retaliation for Trump’s legal pains.
Marjorie Taylor Greene appears at Pickens rally
Greene arrived a little after 10 a.m. to show her support for Trump. She walked towards the crowd close to the media zone and conversed with Trump’s supporters who drove from all over the country.
Pickens, she said, reminded her of her own congressional district in the southern part of Georgia.
“This is a beautiful area, like most of rural America where Americans care about our debt — $32 trillion, we care about our borders that are being invaded every day, and we care about our American taxpayers dollars being used at home and not the war in Ukraine.”
By then, a throng of supporters pushed forward. When asked what she thought of the growing crowd of over 15,000 attendees, Green said the numbers showed Trump was going to win.
“Not only the primary, but the General Election,” Green said.
McMaster, Graham, Timmons among guest speakers at Trump rally
Guest speakers begin at 11 a.m. There will also be a performance by the Rushingbrook Children’s Choir.
Here’s the lineup:
∎Governor Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina
∎Senator Lindsey Graham, United States Senator for South Carolina
∎Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
∎Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Treasurer of South Carolina
∎Rep. William Timmons, U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 4th District
∎Rep. Russell Fry, U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 7th District
∎Hon. André Bauer, Former Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Trump supporters travel long distances to see former president in SC
A worker with the Trump campaign estimated a crowd of “15,000 to 20,000” would be in attendance.
Crowds lined up for several blocks, some arriving on Friday to get near the front gate on East Main Street in downtown Pickens.
Many are wearing red, white and blue and donning Trump hats and t-shirts.
Some traveled long distances to see Trump for the first time.
“I’m super excited,” said Hailey Lehmans of Charleston, a pre-law student at Methodist University in North Carolina. “I support him because he’s real with us. He wasn’t born into politics.”
Stephanie Wald of Grand Isle, Nebraska, and Melissa Cole of Tulsa, Oklahoma, said they’ve been to nearly 30 Trump rallies this year.
“We’re about standing for patriots, truth and justice,” Cole said. “(Trump) told the American people, ‘I’m giving power back to the people.’”
On the indictments facing Trump, Wald said, “It’s all lies. It’s not going to amount to anything. It’s just a distraction.”
Vendors lining the streets leading to East Main Street are selling Trump shirts and hats, bottled water, ice cream, mini-donuts, roasted corn and bottled honey.
Pickens and SC went big for Trump in 2020
Nearly 75 percent of Pickens County voters selected Trump over current President Joe Biden in 2020, making Pickens one of Trump’s top-performing counties in SC.
Nearby Upstate counties also went soundly for Trump in 2020: Oconee (73 percent), Anderson (70 percent), Greenville (58 percent), Spartanburg (63 percent), Cherokee (71 percent) and Union (63 perent),
Overall, South Carolina was 55.1-43.4, Trump over Biden, in the last presidential election.
Sue Beers, 67, of Anderson said she is part of a nine-person group who is praying with Trump before he gets on stage. Beers was part of the early morning crowd in line for the rally. She said she’s been to 10 Trump events, including his inauguration.
“We’re here to pray for his protection,” Beers said. “He’s not our Savior. Jesus is our Savior. He’s just a man. We believe he’s been called by God to help our nation.”
Friday night in Pickens Trump supporters sleep in line
Some attendees slept in line Friday night as a crowd gathered and waited in line in the early Saturday morning hours. Supporters from as far away as Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Indiana and Florida were among those in attendance.
State Rep. Davey Hiott (Pickens) said he’d been guiding parking since last night.
Chances for showers, thunderstorms in Saturday’s forecast
There is a chance of showers Saturday morning before 8 a.m. then a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms after 3 p.m. The forecast calls for mostly sunny and hot conditions with a high near 92 degrees and the heat index rising to as high as 104. The chance of precipitation is 30 percent.
Parking in Pickens
There are a host of designated parking lots around the city of Pickens.
Click here for the complete list.
Shuttle service is available for these three locations from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The drop-off point is where Ann Street meets Main Street. To return to your parking location, you will be picked up where Ann Street meets Main Street.
∎Pickens High School – 150 Torch Dr., Pickens, SC 29671
∎Hagood Mill – 138 Hagood Mill Rd., Pickens, SC 29671
∎Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative – 734 W. Main St., Pickens, SC 29671
Road closures in Pickens
Closed Thursday at 7 p.m. through Saturday at 6 a.m.: East Main Street from Lewis Street to Pendleton Street.
Closed Saturday at 6 a.m. to Sunday at 6 a.m.: Lewis Street; Court Street; Ann Street to Jonas Street; Pendleton Street; Garvin Street; S. Cathrine Street.
Law enforcement will be ‘significant’ in Pickens
Beach said there will be a significant law enforcement presence to maintain peace and order during the Trump rally.
Agencies joining the Pickens Police Department will be Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, State Law Enforcement Division, the S.C. Highway Patrol and the Secret Service.
Officers will be on the lookout for hostilities between pro- and anti-Trump attendees.
“Because it’s a political event, there are people that have diametrically opposed opinions,” Beach said. “We recognize that on either end of the spectrum, it can be emotional, people passionate about their views. I don’t care what your political views are, anytime you see people exercising First Amendment rights, peacefully, that should be a joy.”
Pickens business closures during Trump rally
The Secret Service requires businesses/buildings located in the secure area on E. Main between Hwy 178/Pendleton St. to Legacy Square to be closed on Saturday, July 1 until 3:00 pm.
All other businesses/buildings on Main Street can operate on a regular schedule during the July 1 event.
Here’s the list of Secret Service prohibited items
∎Banners, signs, placards
∎Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
∎Explosives of any kind (including fireworks)
∎Glass, thermal and metal containers
∎Laser lights and laser pointers
∎Mace and/or pepper spray
∎Noisemakers, such as air horns, whistles, drums, bullhorns, etc.
∎Supports for signs/placards
∎And any other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners.
SC Democrats: Trump policies hurt working families
Trump, who enjoys immense popularity in Upstate SC, has remained a front-runner in the Republican primary field despite facing federal criminal charges related to classified documents and mismanagement of campaign funds. The 45th president will want to woo the first-in-the-South primary voters who are looking at an expansive primary field, including former SC Gov. Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott of SC.
Ahead of Trump’s visit, South Carolina Democrats were focused on spotlighting Trump’s policies and its effects on working-class residents.
S.C. Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain brought up Trump’s controversial 2017 tax reform law, which offered tax cuts to businesses and individuals. Referring to it as the “GOP tax scam”, Spain said even though the law had promised to reduce a middle-class family’s tax burden, the results were the opposite.
Instead of helping working families, Spain said the tax law had benefited the rich by providing tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans and corporations. Meanwhile, American jobs were shipped overseas.
“The data speaks for itself. The richest 5% of South Carolinians saw over half of the benefits from Trump’s tax law while working families received very little,” she said.
The Tax Foundation report said the 2017 law reduced federal taxes for households on every income level. The bottom 20% saw their tax burden fall from 13% in 2017 to 12.5% in 2018. Meanwhile, the top 1% households saw an increase in their taxes from 25.5% in 2017 to 25.9% in 2018.
But a Brookings Institution report said that though the law had promised a boost in revenues, so much that it would spur growth in profits and higher wages and “pay for itself,” the law had resulted in lower revenue collection and couldn’t offset the revenue loss from tax cuts.
Spain also tacked on Trump’s proposal to shut down the Appalachian Regional Commission, which supports economic development in the state. The Democrat pointed out Pickens, where Trump will be this weekend, is among South Carolina’s Appalachian counties.
Shifting gears, Spain compared Trump’s track record with the Biden administration’s work.
“In the past two and a half years we’ve seen an incredible shift away from Trump’s failed trickle-down policies under President Joe Biden,” she said, adding that Biden’s policies focused on growing the middle class. “We’ve a heard a lot about “Bidenomics” this week, and that’s because it’s working,” she said.
She mentioned declining inflation rates and the recent Bureau of Labor jobs report where employers added 339,000 employees on their payrolls despite fears of an economic slowdown.
“Donald Trump has never put the American people first. He uses his power to line the pockets of special interest donors at the expense of working families and he would do the same if he got elected again,” Spain said.
Devyani Chhetri covers SC politics for the Greenville News and the USA Today Network.
Bob Montgomery covers Spartanburg County politics and growth & development for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.
Trump leads GOP candidates in polls, nearly tied with Biden
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 43% of self-identified Republicans preferred Trump as their candidate and 22% favored Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
According to a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll, Biden holds single-digit edges over both Trump and DeSantis if the election was held today. But nearly 1 in 4 voters say they would support a third-party candidate.
In a potential rematch of the 2020 contest, Biden is backed by 34% and Trump by 32%; 23% say they would support an unspecified independent contender. In a choice between Biden and DeSantis, Biden leads the Florida governor by 33%-26%; 25% indicate they would vote for a third-party candidate.
According to a new National Public Affairs poll, Trump increased his lead in the 2024 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, leading with 41 percent, followed by DeSantis at 18, former U.N. Ambassador and SC Governor Nikki Haley at 12, and incumbent SC Sen. Tim Scott at 10. No other candidate registered above single digits.
Trump’s return to South Carolina comes weeks after he appeared in court in Miami June 13. Trump pled not guilty to more than 30 charges related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents, which included military information related to nuclear programs.
Meg Kinnard of the Associated Press contributed to this report.