EDISON, NJ – GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump did his best to bring South Asian voters to his side during an appearance at the New Jersey Convention and Expo Center Saturday.
“I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India,” Trump said to a cheering throng of several thousand, mostly South Asians, who had attended the Republican Hindu Coalition sponsored event. “If I am elected president, the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House.”
It was the last campaign stop of a day that saw the billionaire businessman traverse the northeast part of the country with stops in Maine and New Hampshire earlier in the day.
“We are doing amazingly well,” he said. “The Rasmussen Poll, we are up two points nationally, we are going to do well.”
That poll on Friday had Trump leading Democratic rival Hillary Clinton 43-41 percent, shifting from being down seven points at the beginning of the week, according to Rasmussen.
“Generations of Indian and Hindu-Americans have strengthened our country like few people could ever even believe,” he said. “Your values of hard work, education and enterprise have truly enriched our nation and we will be celebrating a Trump administration together.”
Billed as a “Humanity United Against Terror” charity concert to raise money for the victims of terrorism in the Indian and Hindu communities, the event in Edison on Saturday featured several popular “Bollywood” singers and dancers including a performance by choreographer Prabhu Deva, who brought down the house and earned more applause and cheers than the candidate.
It was sponsored by the RHC and the organization’s founder, Chicago businessman Shalabh Kumar, also founder of the AVG Advanced Technologies firm in that city.
Kumar, according to the organization, gave almost $900,000 to Trump’s campaign in July and said he is a longtime friend of the candidate.
Trump’s message of being tough on terrorism, building a wall on the southern border with Mexico and bringing more jobs to America resonated with the crowd of several thousand people that began filling in the convention center at 4 p.m., some three hours before the candidate took the stage.
The massive crowd kept Secret Service agents busy screening attendees entering the center as well as a large presence of Edison police, led by Chief Thomas Bryan.
The large crowd, encompassing people from the region and places like New York City and Connecticut, included South Asians that just came for the performances and said they really didn’t care about Trump’s appearance, to others that fully supported him.
One Indian-American senior citizen from Edison said that he felt it was false advertising to have a political speech during the event.
“(The organizers) made us look foolish,” the man, who asked not to have his name revealed, said. “There was supposed to be prayers and dancing. There are no prayers.”
There were also several non-Asian Trump supporters in attendance, like a 22-year-old man from South Plainfield who said he thinks Trump is the best choice for president because of his business background.
“I think it is great to have a presidential candidate here in Edison,” the man said. “I’m enjoying the music and waiting for him to speak.”
In addition to any controversy inside the center, Democratic operatives including local Township Council members and other elected representatives, held a protest and press conference at 2:30 p.m. on the side of the road in front of the center entrance.
Those speakers blasted Trump and Kumar for coming to Edison and said they felt the event “hijacked” the township and should not have taken place there.
“It is one voice, we all say we are against Donald Trump,” Edison Councilman Ajay Patil said. “We are all with Hillary Clinton. There is not one person (who) doubt she will win.”
Patil said that it is “99.9999 (percent)” that Clinton would win the election and that Trump “is just wasting his time” appealing to Asians.
“Mr. Donald Trump is wasting his time coming into this town we all know,” Patil said. “But good luck to him wasting his valuable time coming into this town.”
South Asians for Hillary sponsored the protest, according to the organization’s New Jersey representative, Amit Jani, who also works for the Secaucus-based Vision Media Marketing, a political and corporate public relations firm.
“It was kind of a community effort,” Jani said after the press conference. “Everyone chipped in, a lot of members of the community.”
Jani said that Middlesex County also helped stage the protest by bringing people out and spreading the word.
“(The county) was instrumental to us,” he said.
While that protest wrapped up long before Trump went on stage, a second group of around 15 Hillary Clinton supporters greeted those leaving the event after the candidate spoke at around 8 p.m. in the parking area outside the main entrance.
That group chanted slogans like “stop rape culture,” referring to recently released videotape of Trump making remarks in 2004 while filming a segment for an entertainment show that referred to him kissing and groping women.
Trump has since apologized for the remarks, that he called simple “locker room banter” with that show’s host Billy Bush.
Bush who had since moved onto the Today Show for NBC, has been suspended for his role on the tape.
Both sides of the later protest, including about a dozen Trump supporters, mostly non-Asian, engaged within a few feet of each other, each side trying to shout the other down.
The Trump side yelling “we love Trump.”
While passionate on both sides, there were no violent incidents.