The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, boasts on its website that it “has 1.7 million square feet of flexible, customizable space,” and regularly holds events with thousands in attendance inside. But when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump held a rally at the center Monday, his event was only allowed 1,000 people.
Fire Marshal Brett Lacey reportedly refused to allow any more Trump supporters into the facility, leaving several thousand people outside and prohibited from entering. Trump said the move on the part of the fire marshal was a political one and wanted to know if the public service employee was a Democrat.
“They turned away thousands of our people. … Look at the size of this place,” the Republican nominee said. “Is the mayor a Democrat over here? That’s what I’ve heard.” Indeed, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther is a Democrat, and he even appeared at a campaign event for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton the day before Trump’s rally.
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The Daily Mail reported Trump went on to say, “We have thousands of people trying to get in and we have a fire marshal that says, ‘No, we can’t allow more people in’ … and the reason they won’t let them in is because they don’t know what the hell they’re doing. … Hey, maybe they’re a Hillary person. Could that be possible? Probably. … This is the kind of thing we have in federal government also … and then you wonder why we’re going to hell. That’s why we’re going to hell.”
A blue curtain greatly reduced the space available for a Trump rally at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Credit: Daily Mail
It’s the second time it has happened to Trump. The first fire marshal to prohibit Trump from welcoming all of his supporters to his rally did so in Colorado Springs, Colo., forcing the participants into an overflow room instead of allowing them to see their candidate in person.
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In an effort to determine why the decision was made to limit the event to 1,000 people, Western Journal spoke with Jennifer B. Davis, marketing and communications manager for the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Davis, who said the meeting was more of a town hall meeting than a rally, said the event was planned at the “spur of the moment,” as political events often are.
Davis said she did not make the call to limit the number of occupants. The decision was indeed the fire marshal’s, she said, following safety codes and the available egress. She added his reasoning for doing so was due in large part to current construction, renovations and improvements underway at the center.
While Trump pointed the finger of blame at the fire marshal, Davis said the Trump campaign knew the event would be limited to 1,000, saying, “That was agreed on all parties on Friday.” She added that she is sure both the Trump and Clinton campaigns will be coming back to the convention center before November, as Ohio is a swing state in the presidential election.
Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement that cutting the crowd off at 1,000 people “was the plan all along,” adding, “We feel disappointed that Mr. Trump wasn’t aware of how that number was reached and that it was agreed to by his own people.”
He also said the 1,000-person limit was set based on the square footage of the space and the number of exits.
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