Trump supporters pack Pacific Amphitheatre for Costa Mesa rally

Trump supporters pack Pacific Amphitheatre for Costa Mesa rally
Donald Trump talks to a packed housed inside the Pacific Amphitheatre at the Orange County fairgrounds on Thursday. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Thousands of supporters of front-running Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump descended on the Orange County fairgrounds Thursday, packing the Pacific Amphitheatre, where the billionaire businessman spoke at an evening campaign rally.

Late in the afternoon, the 8,500-seat amphitheater was completely full, forcing hundreds of backers to head home.

In his speech, which marked the beginning of his California campaign, Trump said, "You're going to see not only make America great again but make it greater than ever before."

"We are going to bring jobs back to this country," Trump added. "Our jobs have been sucked away like candy from a baby. We're not going to let it happen anymore, folks."

He used the Orange County event to repeatedly criticize the news media, calling reporters in attendance "the horrible press," which prompted jeers from the crowd.

His remarks to "build that wall" — referring to construction of a stronger barrier between the United States and Mexico — was well-received by the audience.

Many supporters wore Trump hats and T-shirts with the candidate's "Make America Great Again" slogan, as well as various apparel featuring the American flag.

Inside the amphitheater, which opened about 4 p.m. for people attending the 7 p.m. rally, one sign called Trump "patriotically correct."

Another attendee, referring to the Democrats' presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, wore a shirt declaring "Hillary for prison 2016." Another Trump supporter put Trump's face on an image of World War II icon Rosie the Riveter on a shirt that read "Build a wall 2016."

"I'm hoping we make so much noise tonight they hear us all across America," Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor L. Anthony Beall told the crowd. "You are each part of a movement, something unprecedented in American politics. You, each of you, can help make America great again."

He urged those in attendance to register to vote and speak up about why they support Trump.

"America is worth fighting for," Beall said. "We have got a courageous leader in Mr. Trump ... but he's not just going to go and do this all by himself. We are an army."

Sarah Sandlin of Newport Beach had one of the rally's free tickets but couldn't get inside the venue. She said the line of people trying to get in "looked like a mile long."

Costa Mesa resident Rich Hogan said he waited 45 minutes trying to get in, but like Sandlin, he couldn't.

"It was disappointing, but it was sort of cool because I've never seen an event like this, with how many people there are here," Hogan said. "It's encouraging, just people being involved."

T.J. Sleboda of Oceanside was in line outside the amphitheater in the afternoon with his two children to support Trump, whom he called "a breath of fresh air that we need in politics because he's a non-politician who's gonna shake things up."

For Sleboda, illegal immigration in California is a particular problem.

"Everyone else is ignoring it," he said, adding that if Trump becomes president, "we can finally address the shadow population that we have."

Sleboda's 12-year-old son, Sean, said he supports the GOP candidate because of his education policies.

Sean said he doesn't like Common Core and that Trump, who wants it eliminated, would implement changes allowing him to take math classes that would keep him competitive when he grows up. Common Core is a set of standards that details what K-12 students should know in English language arts and math at the end of each grade.

Henry Mendoza of Orange walked near the amphitheater entrance selling handmade art and Trump buttons for his business, Jaboniez.

Mendoza said he likes how the New York real estate development magnate touts a need for American companies to stop outsourcing work abroad and that the White House needs a true businessman at its helm.

Dozens of extra law enforcement officers were assigned to patrol the fairgrounds area in anticipation of large crowds attending the rally.

At least 75 Orange County sheriff's deputies were expected to be present, in addition to 12 Costa Mesa police officers, Costa Mesa officials said. Some of the sheriff's deputies patrolled the fairgrounds on horseback; others were in the sky aboard helicopters.

The city's Emergency Operations Center, across the street from the fairgrounds and the amphitheater, was activated, said city spokesman Tony Dodero said.

"We're prepared for the worst, we're hoping for the best," Dodero added. "Our hope is that the event is successful and everyone acts accordingly."

A protest near the fairgrounds and Costa Mesa City Hall was organized by Orange County Democrats. Trump's opponents have accused him of bigotry for some of his comments about immigrants.

In what may have been the first anti-Trump act of the day, around 2:30 p.m., Frank Farldow, who lives near the Pacific Amphitheatre in the Monticello condominium complex, played "FDT," a rap song whose title is an abbreviation for an expletive aimed at Trump. The song, by YG and Nipsey Hussle, blasted from Farldow's car, which was parked in his garage off Vanguard Way.

"Hatred and discrimination are not for a man trying out for … running the country," Farldow said.

Trump is pursuing California's 172 delegates in his bid for the Republican nomination.