MAGA Loons, Drill Rappers, and Unlikely Voters: The Never-Ending Trump Rally Comes to the South Bronx

On a bucolic spring Thursday in the Bronx, a tinny, familiar voice carried through Crotona Park, sharing horrible visions of the city we call home and gripes with housing code regulations. Donald Trump, the once-and-possibly-future president, currently awaiting closing arguments in a Manhattan criminal trial and, for the first time ever, holding a rally in one of New York City’s five boroughs, was probably loving what he saw—a diverse, fairly large crowd, all wanting to see America made great again, again. Or at the very least, to be near the man himself. 

“If Trump is here, and he’s asking for a second chance, I can’t judge that,” said Minerva Rosa, a Bronx resident who lives two blocks away from Crotona Park. “If he wins again, is he going to keep any of the promises he makes on the stage today, or is he going to do the opposite? That’s what we’re afraid of. If he wants to straighten out the schools and open up youth centers, get guns off the streets, and that will make America great? Then sure, be president again.”

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

Rosa, like a lot of other neighborhood residents who had turned out, wasn’t actually going inside via the Secret Service checkpoint to see Trump speaking in person. She was posted across the path from the entrance, leaning against a wooden fence, witnessing the spectacle that had overtaken the park. 

Charles Thompson, beside her, and also from the Bronx, was less enthused about how the election was shaping up, but again, was drawn to see what was going on himself. 

“I would have loved to see four or five Democrats running, but for nobody to step the fuck up? I’m disappointed,” he said. 

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

If there’s really anything to be gleaned from a Trump rally in the Bronx in 2024, it’s that by virtue of Trump continuing to fill a charismatic space left completely open by the incumbent president, or any other would-be right-wing rivals, he continues to scoop up the disaffected, alienated, and the just generally dickheaded as supporters. How many of those people will actually be voters? Unclear. That’s what the Democrats are hoping for—numerical support for Trump in the streets, but much less at the polls.

A woman handed out voter registration cards urging people to register as Republicans and people eagerly filled them out—a move guaranteeing themselves electoral perdition in New York City, no longer able to vote in the elections that actually matter: Democratic primaries. But that’s not what was on people’s minds. A new poll was all the talk, which had Trump just nine points behind in New York.

“Single digits, baby!” One supporter shouted to another. 

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

The line to enter the rally snaked through the park and up Franklin Avenue. Most people were decked out in Trump-related gear, as vendors hawked “Joe and the Hoe” t-shirts and Trump mugshot shirts (in support of Trump). A few Yankees fans had done a doubleheader, watching the day game at Yankee Stadium before heading a few blocks uptown for the rally. (The Yankees, like Trump, are rolling early—they won 5-0 to stay atop their division.) Chants of “Let’s Go Brandon” and “U-S-A, U-S-A” would periodically ring out in different sections of the line.

“The only reason white people come to the South Bronx is for the Yankees or Trump, I guess,” said one local resident, whose name I didn’t catch, waiting on line to get in. “Shit, I live up the block, I’m just here to see Trump myself.”

Every so often, a commotion broke out along the line—a Trump impersonator made the rounds as people scrambled to see if this was, improbably, Trump (much too short). And the drill rapper Sheff G, currently facing federal murder charges, made his way into the rally, flanked by security. 

“Oh my god, that’s Sheff G!” kids from a nearby charter school shouted, firmly clutching their phones in front of them, taking videos. 

Sheff G. (John Taggart / Hell Gate)

On the line, Yasha Lerner, from Crown Heights, said he supported Trump because Biden wasn’t sufficiently supportive of Israel. He had traveled with other Orthodox Jews from the tri-state area to see the rally.

“Biden said he’d never cut aid to Israel, and then he said he would, and then he went back on it,” Lerner said. “He’s a little confused and unstable.”

A few people behind Lerner’s group was Mauricio Antonio, from the Fordham area. It’s the first election he’s eligible to vote in, but he’s not a fan of either of the two candidates, although he seemed generally unsure of exactly what his own politics were. He immigrated to the United States as a child from Mexico. 

“Fuck Biden. I want to see Trump because he’s so funny,” Antonio told Hell Gate. “I don’t know if you’ve seen Project 2025, that’s fucking outrageous. But I don’t think it will ever get passed through because it’s Trump, he’s an old-ass man, it’s all outlandish.”

The Secret Service had only set up six scanners for people to walk through, leading to a crush of people waiting just inside the security perimeter to be admitted into the area where Trump was giving his speech. As each small group made it through the scanners, they ran up a grassy hill like festival goers trying to cram in another act. 

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

But there was really only one attraction inside, and as the heat and the now-standstill line to get in dragged on, people began to lose patience. A counterprotest across from the line, where people chanted the ever-resonant “Fuck Donald Trump,” drew wandering Trump supporters looking to get into some light antagony, cursing at the counter-protestors, only to be led away by blue-shirted community affairs NYPD officers.

Peter Blade, from the Bronx, was one of those counterprotesters. Blade was wearing a frog head and two paper towels attached to his body, a commentary on Trump’s trip to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, when he threw paper towel rolls at distressed Puerto Ricans. The frog, he said, was in tribute to the coquí, the unofficial mascot of Puerto Rico. 

“I’m just here because the vast majority of the people in the Bronx? They say ‘fuck Trump,'” Blade told Hell Gate. 

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

As Trump continued interminably, members of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group rolled in outside the rally on bikes, aiming to get between Trump supporters and counterprotesters, as Trump supporters began to leave the speech in higher numbers. 

The omnipresent Crackhead Barney was at the center of a few scuffles, people interviewing her aggressively for TikTok, almost knocking off her bleach-blonde wig. “The NYPD dogs need to get trained in smelling my pussy,” she said, before reentering the counter-protest, cursing out Trump supporters and the NYPD alike.

Earlier, the NYPD’s Chief of Patrol John Chell very conspicuously stood alone inside the Trump rally, stroking his chin, as if daring the press to ask if he was there to support Trump or provide security the Secret Service couldn’t. (On Thursday, Chell also appeared in a Dr. Phil video touting a “migrant crime wave,” that he said was “getting out of hand,” something the NYPD’s own data doesn’t back up.)  

(John Taggart / Hell Gate)

As Trump’s speech droned on, the evening took on the feel of people just outside the perimeter of any other summer park event, like a concert or festival—scattered skirmishes, teens running screaming from one side of the park to another, people selling water and piraguas, and Bronx residents laying out on the glacially exposed schist, as a once-broiling day became pleasant and cool. 

Trump’s voice floated above it all, only scattered bits coming through: 

“Worst I’ve ever seen…” “Terrible…” “Disgusting…”

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