Thousands gather to hear Donald Trump in Hickory

HICKORY, N.C. — Donald Trump was back in North Carolina for a rally one day before the state holds its primary elections.

The billionaire businessman was in Hickory Monday morning for a rally at Lenoir-Rhyne University.

Lenior-Rhyne University said Trump’s campaign asked to come to the campus on the eve of the North Carolina primary.

There were clashes between groups who oppose him and his supporters.

"Name one racist thing he's done. Tell me how he's racist," one Trump supporter said.

"Protest peacefully, it’s America," a protester said.

The protests weren't always peaceful, including an incident halfway through his speech where Channel 9 reporters could see one man assaulted and another end up on the ground wrestled by police.

"They're just trying to bully their Bernie Sanders crap on me and I'm not going to take it," a supporter of Trump said. "I ain't do **** they just grabbed me," he said.

For much of the morning it was a peaceful exchange of ideas as protesters lined the sidewalk in front of Grace Chapel at Lenoir Rhyne University.

One student told Channel 9 the message she wanted to share with Trump.

"We love him and hope he changes," student Bailey Jenkins said.

Six people were cited at the event, authorities said. The citations were two simple affray, two disorderly conduct and two resist obstruct delay an officer. There were no injuries at the event.

Last week, Trump was in Concord and Fayetteville for rallies that attracted thousands of attendees.

Monday's rally was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. but a campaign spokesperson said heavy fog in the area forced Trump to land in Charlotte, delaying the start.

Security was a top concern, especially after recent violence at Trump's events.

The auditorium for the rally only held 1,400 people.  With the line stretching across the campus of Lenoir-Rhyne University, thousands were turned away, but not a group who made the drive down from Ohio after missing out on his rally there.

"He won't back down for nothing." Greg Perry, a Trump supporter said. "Went to Cleveland but was too late. Also Cincinnati but we'll get in this time."

In a statement the university said:

"Lenoir-Rhyne University invites all major candidates to speak on campus for the benefit of the extended community. LR is firmly committed to the principle that free and open dialog are essential to the political process and that a university serves as the best place for such free exchange."

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Channel 9 was at the university early Monday morning where hundreds of supporters had already lined up for the 10 a.m. event in the P.E. Monroe Auditorium.

Some people, including students, camped out overnight. They told Channel 9 Monday’s event is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Trump in Hickory.

Monday's rally comes days after a violent protest forced Trump to cancel a similar event in Chicago, but supporters Channel 9 spoke with said they didn't think anything like that would happen in Hickory.

"This is not Charlotte, this is not Philadelphia. We do have our own small amount of violence here but I don't see it happening at this school," said Anna Boone, a Trump supporter.

"I think they're stupid. I think they should go home," added Luke Kirkland, another supporter.

Not much has changed in the polls over the weekend. The left-leaning Public Policy Poll shows that when Trump takes the stage in Hickory, he will be doing so with a major lead.

The auditorium could only seat 1,400 people but speakers were set up outside so the thousands who couldn't get in could listen to the GOP front runner.

On three separate occasions, protesters interrupted the rally inside, and were escorted out by police.

No matter what your party affiliation is, you will be voting on the Connect N.C. bond Tuesday as well. The bonds are heavily favored by Democrats with 67 percent.

Republicans also are in favor with 47 percent. If approved, $2 billion will be sprinkled across the state for various infrastructure projects, including $90 million to UNC-Charlotte to build a new state-of-the-art science building.

Another $750,000 would go towards making trail improvements at Crowders Mountain State Park.

Critics of the bond package say its debt with heavy interest that will be passed on to future generations.

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