Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is on Bernie Sanders' turf of Burlington, Vermont—where the U.S. senator served as mayor for eight years—for a rally on Thursday night that has rankled police and the mayor while galvanizing the progressive spirit of the democratic socialist's home base supporters.
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According to news reports, Trump's campaign has reportedly distributed about 20,000 free tickets for an event at a theater that seats roughly 1,400. The Burlington Free Press reported that the earliest spectators arrived before dawn on Thursday.
Dismissing the circus act, the Sanders campaign employed a metaphor that made reference to Vermont's agricultural traditions.
"Vermont is known for some of the nation's finest dairy products, so we’re pretty good at identifying and shoveling what the cow leaves on the barn floor when we see it," campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote in a fundraising email sent to supporters on Thursday afternoon. "To this day, no one has been able to make Donald Trump pay for the price for his antics. But we can."
Sanders also issued a more serious statement about Trump's campaign stop on Wednesday, welcoming the GOP frontrunner to his home state and saying: "I hope his presence here will help him better understand Vermont values—social and economic justice, tolerance, respect for all people and the environment."
NBC News reporter Katy Tur reported on Twitter:
Fun fact. The first guy in line for Trump in Burlington, VT is ---wait for it--- a Bernie supporter.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 7, 2016
Meanwhile, organizers are expecting as many as 1,000 Vermonters to participate in a mass silent protest and rally outside the theater.
"Trump is coming here to pick a fight with Bernie Sanders and get a big media splash," said Allise Hewes, a college student and leader of the local group Rights & Democracy. "Instead of giving Trump more air time, the media should lift up the positive efforts underway in Vermont for environmental, economic and social justice."
Added Michelle Salvador, a leader of the Vermont State Employees Association and chair of the board of Rights & Democracy: "Vermonters have a real shot at making change in the next election, but it isn't through Trump's hateful agenda. It's right here at the state level. We're focused on building a independent movement for real change in Vermont instead of taking Trump's bait."
The Burlington Free Press is providing live updates here. Trump is scheduled to speak at 7 pm.
Watch a live-stream below: