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From left, Lynda Tanner, Brenda Winston, David Pitre, Karen Schooley, Kristina and Rodney Pittman are the front of the line at the Trump rally. The group is from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. President Donald Trump held a rally at the UTC McKenzie Arena on November 4, 2018.

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Trump visits Chattanooga

Some of the first supporters arrived in the early morning hours Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump's evening rally, and as daylight broke over McKenzie Arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, thousands more amassed.

Cleveland, Tennessee, resident 52-year-old Gayle Clark, and her husband, Brian, were among the throng of morning supporters who pitched chairs and donned "Make America Great Again" hats.

"I was tired of political lies," she said, adding that she'd avoided many local elections because of how disappointed she'd become in the process. "He's not a politician, and he's not lying about things."

He's not a politician, and he's not lying about things.

Throughout the morning, occasional chants of "USA, USA" and "Lock Her Up" echoed around the outside of the arena. On every corner, merchants hawked T-shirts supporting the president. Come noon, lines had formed as a loudspeaker played sound bites from Trump's past speeches and reminded attendees not to "punch protesters."

By 2 p.m., a crowd of political activists, clergy and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students had gathered on the other side of the McKenzie Arena parking lot to protest what they described as fascist, racist policies. Though both sides exchanged words about abortion and immigration, no one was arrested for protesting. Police spokesman Elisa Myzal said one person was arrested for not moving out of the way of a Secret Service vehicle.

"Just imagine if all these individuals cared about failing schools, affordable housing all the things we experience on daily basis," said Marie Mott, one protester who hosts a radio program on NoogaRadio 92.7. "It's not about party, about color, about divisive tactics. What we should be about is rallying around human issues of love and concern."

Tension grew slightly when a small group of Proud Boys, a far-right group who traveled from Knoxville, joined the rally line around 3:45 p.m.

At least two of the men wore black hats with the Proud Boys emblem on the front and "Proud Boys" printed on the back. The Proud Boys made national headlines in mid-October after members of the group violently beat up protesters after a Republican event in Manhattan.

"[We're] just showing support for our president. That's all," said a man who was only identified by a co-member as Michael. "He's putting more money back in my pocket, and he's taking care of Americans."

And while supporters had plenty of praise for the president, there were some who shared a little criticism, including wanting him to limit his Twitter usage.

"I do wish he'd zip it sometimes, because he'll make a good point and then turn around and do that," said Dean Robinson, 72, who traveled from Dayton, Tennessee, with his wife.

Overall, though, many supporters Sunday applauded a leader who they believe is fulfilling campaign promises and standing up to an establishment that's disappointed them for years. They were here to support U.S. Senate hopeful Marsha Blackburn and Vice President Mike Pence on his rare trip with the president.

Echoing on many of the themes Trump touched upon in his speeches in Macon, Georgia, earlier on Sunday, and in Chattanooga, supporters praised the economy and rising wages, as well as the president's desire to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which they said would allow leaders to focus on improving education and veteran care in the U.S.

Some, like Robinson, believed in a faster road to citizenship for those who want to do good in this country. A focal point Sunday was the so-called caravan moving toward the U.S., and many supported Trump's security measure to send 5,000 troops to the border.

As news of Trump and Pence's landing spread later in the evening, people and protesters who did not make it into the arena started making their way to an intersection where they heard the presidential motorcade would pass. They waited about an hour, mostly in harmony, before several vehicles with flashing blue lights roared down the officer-lined road.

"No hate in my state," several protesters chanted while supporters cheered until the vehicles passed.

As a light rain fell and the president took the stage, the crowd outside dissipated.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423- 757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918. Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423- 757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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