Trump rallies thousands in the South Bronx as he tries to woo his hometown

Former President Donald Trump campaigned Thursday in one of the most Democratic counties in the nation, holding a rally in the South Bronx as he tries to woo minority voters days before a Manhattan jury will begin deliberations on whether to convict him of felony charges in his criminal hush money trial.

Trump addressed supporters in Crotona Park, a public green space in a neighborhood that is among the city's most diverse and its most impoverished, a change from the majority-white areas where he holds most of his rallies. While the crowd was not quite as diverse as the South Bronx as a whole, it included large numbers of Black and Hispanic voters; Spanish was heard throughout the crowd.


Trump, in his speech, cast himself as a better president for Black and Hispanic voters than President Joe Biden as he railed against Biden on immigration, an issue Trump has made central to his campaign. He insisted "the biggest negative impact" of the influx of migrants in New York is "against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose."

Some in the crowd responded by chanting, "Build the wall," a reference to Trump's push while in the White House to build a U.S.-Mexico border barrier.

With Trump confined to New York for much of the last six weeks because of his trial, the presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign has planned a series of local stops across his hometown before and after court. He visited a bodega in Harlem, dropped by a construction site and held a photo op at a local firehouse.

But the Bronx rally was his first event open to the general public as he insists he is making a play to win an overwhelmingly Democratic state that hasn’t backed a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Besides creating a spectacle of rallygoers and protesters, the rally also gave Trump an opportunity to highlight what he argues are advantages on economic and immigration issues that could cut into key Democratic voting blocs.

"The strategy is to demonstrate to the voters of the Bronx and New York that this isn’t your typical presidential election, that Donald Trump is here to represent everybody and get our country back on track," said Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds, a potential Trump running mate who grew up in Brooklyn and spoke at the rally.


Donald Trump to hold Thursday campaign rally in the Bronx; counter-protests planned

Former President Donald Trump is planning to hold a NYC campaign rally Thursday evening in the Crotona Park section of the Bronx, the campaign announced.

The former president opened his rally with an ode to his hometown, talking about its humble beginnings as a small Dutch trading post before becoming a glamorous capital of culture that "inspired the entire world." While Trump established residency in Florida in 2019, he reminisced on Thursday about his efforts to revitalize Central Park's Wollman Rink and people he knew in the real estate business.

"Everyone wanted to be here," he told the enthusiastic audience. "But sadly this is now a city in decline."

"If a New Yorker can’t save this country," he went on to say, "no one can."

Hours before Trump’s rally was set to begin, a long line of supporters decked out in red "Make America Great Again" hats and other Trump gear snaked around the park, waiting for security screening to begin. People were still entering the park well into Trump's speech, with some eager supporters sprinting up a hill toward the rally site after getting through security.

What to know about the counter-protests

The Bronx Democratic Party protested Trump's appearance with its own event at the park.

Members of multiple unions were present, holding signs that said "The Bronx says no to Trump" in both English and Spanish.

"We are used to elected officials, to government officials, to opportunists of all kinds who come to our community and use our painful history," said Democratic State Rep. Amanda Septimo, who represents the South Bronx. "They talk about the Bronx and everything that’s wrong with it, but they never get to the part that talks about what they’re going to do for the Bronx and we know that Trump is never going to get to that part in his speech."

NYC Assemblymember Amanda Septimo, as well as civil rights activist Kirsten John Foy, told the New York Post on Monday they don’t want Trump and his views on issues such as immigration to go unchallenged in the borough, so they organized counter-programming.

Rep. Ritchie John Torres, a Democrat who represents New York's 15th Congressional District – where the rally is being held – says the only place in the Bronx where Trump has any business being is Bronx Criminal Court. He also blasted the former president in a statement to Fox News Digital.

"The South Bronx has no greater enemy than Donald Trump, who is on a mission to dismantle the social safety net on which Bronx families depend for their survival," Torres said. "Trump is and has always been a fraud. The South Bronx – the most Democratic area in the nation – will not buy the snake oil that he is selling."

Members of the Democratic and Working Families Party, pro-immigration advocates and union activists will also be part of the anti-Trump rally, the Post reported.

What are present/former NY politicians saying?

Several longtime figures in New York politics — both Republican and Democrat — argued there’s good reason for Trump to go to the Bronx and other majority Black and Latino communities.

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican Party, noted that the GOP, in an upset victory, picked up a city council seat from the borough last year for the first time in 40 years. He pointed to the current political climate, with some voters pessimistic about the economy and viewing Biden as weakened.

"As chairman of the party here in New York, I’m not going to write off New York. We’re going to go for it," he said.

Trump has often pointed to the success of former Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who ran for governor in 2022 against Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul. Zeldin ultimately lost the race by an unusually close margin.

During his campaign, Zeldin appeared in the Bronx alongside the Rev. Rubén Díaz Sr., a former state senator and city council member who had urged Trump to hold a rally in the borough and held a pro-Trump event there Saturday.

While other presidential candidates have visited and met with local leaders, Díaz commended Trump for being "the first and only president or presidential candidate who has shown respect to minority communities in the Bronx" by holding a rally.

Díaz, who remains a Democrat despite backing Trump, said he believes there are others in the borough who will also cross the aisle, pointing to concerns over an influx of migrants that has dominated headlines in New York over budget and safety concerns.

"People are fed up," he said. "Democrats say they are there to help us ... but our people are doing worse under the Democratic control."

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that campaigning in that part of the city makes sense for Trump.

"There is a concentration of Latino ministers who are pro-life in the Bronx and they are mobilized and energized," said Cuomo, who chose to appear with Diaz in 2022 as he floated a political comeback months after the Democrat resigned after being accused of sexual harassment by at least 11 women.

Cuomo, who has denied the allegations, said: "It’s not really indicative of New York, but there is a lot of energy on that issue in that part of the Bronx."

Bronx voting history

The Bronx was once the most Democratic borough in the city. 

Barack Obama won 91.2% of the borough's vote in 2012, the highest anywhere in the state. Biden won 83.5% of the borough in 2020. Trump garnered only 16% of the vote.

The area Trump will be visiting is overwhelmingly non-white — a departure from most of his rally locations. About 65% of residents are Hispanic and 31% Black, according to U.S. Census data. About 35% live below the poverty line.

Harlem bodega rally

Last month, Trump made a campaign stop in Harlem, using a bodega as a backdrop to slam Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for what he calls soft on crimes that matter. 

Former president Donald Trump visits a bodega store in upper Manhattan where a worker was assaulted by a man in 2022 and ended up killing him in an ensuing fight on April 16, 2024. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Two years ago, Bragg charged a bodega clerk with murder and sent him to Rikers Island after he killed a man who attacked him behind the counter. 

Wildwood, NJ rally

Earlier this month, Trump drew what his team called a "mega crowd" of "tens of thousands" to a rally in Wildwood.

People gather for a campaign rally by former US President and 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Wildwood, New Jersey, on May 11, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Lisa Fagan, spokesperson for the city, told The Associated Press she estimated the crowd represented between 80,000 and 100,000 attendees, based off her own observations on the scene, having seen "dozens" of other events in the same space.

Hours before he was scheduled to take the stage, thousands of Trump loyalists donning "Never Surrender" T-shirts and red "Make America Great Again" hats crowded onto the sand between the boardwalk and carnival rides to greet the former Republican president.

Trump hush money trial

The rally comes during a pause in Trump’s criminal hush money trial. Court will resume following the Memorial Day weekend with closing arguments. 

The jury will then decide whether Trump will become the first former president in the nation's history to be criminally convicted and whether he will be the first major party presidential candidate to run as a convicted felon.

The Associated Press wire services helped contribute to this report.