At the Omaha Trump rally, hundreds are stranded in the cold, waiting for buses
Over the next few hours, hundreds and hundreds of people attending the rally were stranded when a chaotic scene unfolded on dark streets on a remote track near the Omaha airport. They were waiting for buses that didn’t arrive and couldn’t reach the construction site because of a congested two-lane road.
Lots of people went to their cars that were parked three or four miles away, which further blocked the streets. CNN saw several medics tending to people in the boneless evening air. The temperature was exactly as it was freezing, but the wind chill was much lower.
Earlier that night, the president commented on the weather.
“I mean, I’m standing here freezing cold. I ask you a little favor: get out of here and vote,” said Trump to cheers from the crowd. “The great red wave. At least you’re down there with each other. I’m all up here and this wind is blowing.”
After the rally, police tried to control the scene but tried to bring order to the pandemonium. There were no campaign ahead teams in sight. A local volunteer said he had not received instructions on how to get the supporters back on the buses.
“We still need at least 30 buses,” said an Omaha policeman, shaking his head.
The Trump campaign said Wednesday it had used twice the number of buses for rally goers, “but local road closures and the resulting congestion caused delays.”
“We always strive to provide the best possible guest experience at our events, and we care about their safety,” said Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for Trump, in a statement.
She also said the Trump campaign provided tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa and hand warmers, but the problems came after departure location when people went to nearby streets to wait for buses.
For months, the Trump campaign has been using the practice of moving supporters from parking lots to rally locations to cater to the large crowds. Its events took place in places such as small airports that usually don’t attract rally-sized crowds and therefore don’t have on-site parking to support the rush of people and crowds.
This has created a scenario where thousands of people have to wait for hours after the event ends for buses to take them back to their cars. At an event in Gastonia, North Carolina last Wednesday, hundreds of supporters had to make the decision to either wait for the bus or walk several miles on a busy road with no sidewalks to their parking spaces.
Even those who make it on a bus don’t do so until after a long wait with hundreds of other people – most of them don’t wear a mask – until they get on the bus, where every single seat is taken and no social distancing is practiced.
It is unlikely that any of the rallyers will change their voices as they are some of the most dedicated supporters. But it’s hardly the kind of local news you’d want to generate – especially in Nebraska, which has record-breaking Covid cases for a fourth straight week.
CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with additional reports explaining the Trump campaign.