Election 2016: The Difference in the Crowds

In March, for the first time in a long time, Arizona mattered in a presidential primary. The 2016 campaigns descended on the state with all the candidates but John Kasich making an appearance.

The Trump rally in Fountain Hills made the national news because of the protesters that closed the roads into the small suburb. I passed a few of them on the way in. The road was still open at the time.

Fountain Hills, AZ. 19th March 2016. Donald Trump protesters gather on Shea Blvd. prior to blockading the road into Fountain Hills.
Fountain Hills, AZ. 19th March 2016. Donald Trump protesters gather on Shea Blvd. prior to blockading the road into Fountain Hills.

Some people were content to drive around with their signs closer to the event site.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Protesters turning around at a police checkpoint in near the Donald Trump rally.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Protesters turning around at a police checkpoint in near the Donald Trump rally.

Once I cleared security, we “the press” were stuck in one of Trump’s famous media pens. Personally I didn’t have a problem with this because the fence provides some relief from the crowd and it gave me room to work. From the camera platform I had a good view of the crowd that was admitted to podium area.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The crowd surrounding Donald Trump.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The crowd surrounding Donald Trump.

I was also able to see the crowd that formed on the hillside facing the lake.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The overflow crowd lines the hillside around the Donald Trump rally.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The overflow crowd lines the hillside around the Donald Trump rally.

The police were ready, but the action was down the road at the blockade.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Mounted police watch the hillside around the Donald Trump rally.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Mounted police watch the hillside around the Donald Trump rally.

Not everyone there was a Trump supporter, but most were.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The overflow crowd had a few anti-Trump signs.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. The overflow crowd had a few anti-Trump signs.

By now the protesters had blocked the main road into Fountain Hills. This delayed Trump by almost two hours. It was a hot day with bright sunshine, and my arms got cooked. Over the next few days at other events I could always tell who else was there by the sunburns.

Around the time when Trump was taking the stage, the protesters on foot showed up on the hillside.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Protesters enter the overflow crowd.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Protesters enter the overflow crowd.

When Trump took the stage, he complimented the police for getting him through the barricade. It wasn’t as bad as what happened this last week in California, and the rest of the event went on as planned.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Donald Trump thanks the crowd at the end of this rally.
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Donald Trump thanks the crowd at the end of this rally.

After Trump exited the stage the crowd was still fired up. At every rally Trump likes to point call out the media about not showing how many people attend his rallies. Personally, I’ve made it a point to file pictures of the crowd. Attendance is an important part of any political event. But I have no say on if those pictures get used.

Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Trump rally attendees hold up campaign signs as they leave the event. The fence in the lower foreground is for the "media pen."
Fountain Hills, Arizona, 19th March 2016. Trump rally attendees hold up campaign signs as they leave the event. The fence in the lower foreground is for the “media pen.”

Two days later Hillary Clinton held a rally in Phoenix. The location was a high school on the near east side. She also attracted protesters.

Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Protesters outside of Hillary Clinton's campaign rally.
Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Protesters outside of Hillary Clinton’s campaign rally.

The rally was in the high school’s gym and not everyone that showed up was able to get in.

Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. People wait to enter the Hillary Clinton rally.
Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. People wait to enter the Hillary Clinton rally.

The gym wasn’t large and there was space to walk between the crowd in at the press area. A majority of the audience was in the upper bleachers. The bleachers were not pulled out on the other side of the gym, and the upper level was only on side.

Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton supporters fill the bleachers in a high school gym.
Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton supporters fill the bleachers in a high school gym.

The railing that separated the audience from the podium followed the three-point line of the gym’s basketball court.

Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton supporters line the railing that held the crowd back from the podium.
Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton supporters line the railing that held the crowd back from the podium.

Clinton gave her speech without incident.

Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally.
Phoenix, Arizona, 21st March 2016. Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally.

As I left the pro-Trump protesters were already gone.

After attending seven campaign events in six days, I can say that Trump drew the largest crowd by far. Sanders outdrew Clinton by the virtue of holding two events in larger venues. But even for a single event, I’d have to say Sanders had slightly larger crowds. Cruz also held a rally in a gym, with about the same turnout as Clinton.

But as we saw in California this week, it’s Trump that brings out the emotion in both his supporters and opponents. The anti-Trump protesters are also the most likely to try and disrupt an event. None of the other candidates have that level of hate directed at them.

Clearly Trump has struck a nerve in America.


Jennifer Mack is a photographer and blogger based in Phoenix, Arizona. You can follow her blog at jennifermack.net and her Instagram at @shotbyjenn.

All photos ©2016 by Jennifer Mack, all rights reserved.