President Donald Trump came to Omaha on Tuesday night hoping to increase his chances of winning the region’s competitive electoral college vote.
But it left a logistical mess in its wake at Eppley Airfield as dozens of people tried to return to their vehicles via buses after the large-scale event amid a raging pandemic.
Trump’s rallies during the pandemic have already worried health experts because, even when they’re outside, big events show little social distancing and masquerading from the public. But the logistical problems in Omaha likely only compound existing anxieties about holding such events and bringing so many people together at a time when health experts are still sounding the alarm bells over the deadly coronavirus.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that there were hundreds of people stranded for “up to three hours in freezing temperatures” as they attempted to leave the event via chartered buses.
A spokesperson for the Omaha Police Department said in an email that “buses loaded and transported approximately 25,000 people to the event site over a 10 hour period,” from 10 a.m. Tuesday until ‘at the start of the event. But estimates on the number of people who made their way to the airfield have varied, and the spokesperson noted that the ministry’s figures were preliminary.
Officer Michael Pecha, an information official with the Omaha Police Department, said in an email that an initial report found “a total of 7 people transported to area hospitals suffering from various conditions. medical. Those in need of medical attention were contacted by medics throughout the event, not just at the end.
According to the Omaha Police Department, members of the crowd “swarmed the waiting buses” around the time the rally ended around 9 pm. As a result, a large number of people decided to walk to their cars, OPD said, even though the nearest parking lot was around 2.5 miles away.
Those on foot impacted traffic “and significantly delayed bus trips,” Pecha said in the email, noting that law enforcement was working to help as best they could. “Many people underestimated the distance between the event and the parking lot on foot. The last person was loaded onto a bus from the rally site at around 11:50 pm, ”Pecha said.
Derek Oden, executive director of the Douglas County Republican Party, said in an email that the rally “had three times the expected number” of participants. He boasted “an incredible atmosphere; tailgating, positive, flags, vendors everywhere ”but, after the event he said“ the real problem was that the 40 shuttles (cap. 54 / each) were stuck in the unloading parking lot and unable to make quick returns .
“Lots of police go back and forth along the hike and stop for people who are having issues with the hike,” Oden said in the email. “Overall it was a lot of fun.”
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign responded to the aftermath of the event in an email saying, “President Trump loves his supporters and was delighted to be in Omaha last night,” while touting that “despite the cold, tens of thousands of people showed up. for his rally.
Samantha Zager, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, blamed “the local road closures and the resulting congestion” for the delays, but added that “at the departure point of the guests we had tents , radiators, generators, hot chocolate and hand warmers available to guests. “
“We always strive to provide the best experience for guests at our events and care about their safety,” Zager said.
During the election campaign, the scene was criticized by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden who said “hundreds of people, including older Americans and children”, had been “stranded” as a result of the campaign. event.
“It’s an image that captured President Trump’s whole approach to this crisis,” Biden said, referring to the pandemic.
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