It’s just before 10 a.m. Wednesday, two hours before Donald Trump is to take the stage at the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta.
The historic theater is starting to fill up with backers of the billionaire Republican presidential hopeful. Trump was feted at a Buckhead fundraiser earlier Wednesday. One Republican here in the theater, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said he believes the event raised nearly $800,000.
The crowd at the Fox is largely white but of all ages. Pictured above are two of the younger members of the audience, Quay Manuel, 16, a rising junior at Woodward Academy, and Brett Catinella, 17, a rising senior at North Atlanta High School.
The two buddies said they are here today because Trump is the best candidate to move America forward.
“I love that guy,” Manuel said of Trump. “I like his policies on foreign affairs, immigration and the Second Amendment.”
Catinella said Trump has proved to be a man with a plan.
“He’s almost always right,” Catinella said. “It stuns me how almost always he’s on point.”
Both teens said they have taken grief from classmates for their candidate of choice. For Manuel, that has included age-old taunts.
“I get bashed,” he said. “I get called racist, a bigot, an Uncle Tom.”
His classmates, he said, were largely for Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate who lost his party’s nomination to Hillary Clinton.
“That’s because they just want free stuff,” Catinella said.
Inside the Fox, the stage is adorned by three American and three Georgia flags with a single podium. The theater’s audio system is playing an eclectic mix, from Neil Young to Pavarotti’s iconic performance of “Nessun Dorma.”
Outside, Georgia Democrats planned a 10 a.m. news conference to counter Trump’s appearance, but otherwise the expected protests have yet to materialize. Atlanta police had earlier said they would close off Peachtree Street in anticipation of big crowds. By midmorning, the department had said the move didn’t appear necessary.