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Reports of mayhem after Trump rally in Omaha overblown

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 12:09 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The mass departure from the MAGA rally at Eppley Airfield made for long treks home Tuesday night, but not the way many on social media — and even Joe Biden himself — make it seem.

About 25,000 people attended Tuesday night’s rally at Eppley Airfield, according to an OPD spokesman. Many social media posts said many of those attendees were left stranded in freezing weather for hours once the president left, but reports from Omaha authorities indicate otherwise.

Buses were delivering rally attendees from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. OPD reported at about 6 p.m. that the event was at capacity.

Around 8 p.m., President Trump arrived at the Make America Great Again Victory Rally, hosted by Tac Air and organized by the White House and the Trump campaign. Once the rally was over around 9 p.m., “people flooded to the waiting buses,” and many of them opted to walk back to their vehicles, OPD said.

The Omaha Airport Authority said the Trump campaign rented 40 buses to transport people from remote parking lots to the event site and ran them for 10 hours. The bus company confirmed Wednesday that those drivers were paid, deflating another incorrect rumor circulating on social media.

OPD said additional Metro Area Transit buses were called in after the event to help transport people away from the rally.

Transportation from the site to parking areas began immediately following the event, an OAA spokesman said, but many people opted to forego the wait for a bus ride and walk back to their vehicles. OPD said the shortest walk back to a parking lot was 2.5 miles and that “foot traffic on Lindberg Drive slowed bus traffic and delayed bus trips considerably.”

Officers also gave rides to elderly and handicapped attendees as they were able, the spokesman said.

The weather station at the airport recorded the temp as 34 degrees with a wind chill of 27 degrees at 8:52 p.m. Tuesday, with the temperature dropping to 33 degrees with the same wind chill by 11:52 p.m. and continuing to fall to about 25 degrees and a wind chill of 16 degrees by 5:52 a.m. Wednesday.

The last person leaving the rally site by bus was on board at 11:50 p.m., and pedestrian and vehicle traffic was back to normal by 12:30 a.m., OPD said.

Between five and seven people were taken from Tuesday night’s MAGA rally with various medical conditions, authorities said. Others needing medical attention were “contacted by medics over the duration of the event, not just at the end,” the OPD spokesman said.

Some media reports based on preliminary unverified information prompted an outcry from local Democrats.

“Leaving hundreds of Nebraskans stranded in the cold captures the entire Trump administration. I hope those responsible for the poor planning to feed Trump’s ego will be held accountable and that fellow Nebraskans turn out to vote to end this chaos,” Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb said in statement on Wednesdsay.

Biden also talked about the events in Omaha while campaigning Wednesday in Delaware.

The president’s campaign issued a statement Wednesday about the Omaha rally:

Full response from Omaha Police

According to a preliminary report there were 30 people contacted for medical reasons and a total of 7 people transported to area hospitals with a variety of medical conditions. Those needing medical attention were contacted by medics over the duration of the event, not just at the end. Eppley Airport Fire Department will have a better accounting of the total number of medical contacts, reasons and times.

Buses loaded and hauled approximately 25,000 people to the event site over a 10 hour period of time. The buses began running at 10:00 a.m. and ran up to the start of the rally at 8 p.m. There were 40 total buses used for the event. Law enforcement did assist people out of the area who wanted to leave or couldn't make it on buses before the rally ended. When the speech was over at about 9 p.m., people flooded to the waiting buses. There were buses specifically for handicap people in attendance. Law enforcement made buses a priority on the event outbound. Additional buses were called in from Metro Area Transit to assist with the outbound to get people back to their cars.

Many people elected to walk back to the parking areas instead of waiting for a bus. The shortest walk to the nearest parking lot was approximately 2.5 miles. The foot traffic on Lindberg Drive slowed bus traffic and delayed bus trips considerably. There was an abundance of uniformed officers in marked cars and on foot attempting to direct traffic to clear the congestion.

Officers assisted in giving rides to elderly and infirm people who elected to walk. Many people underestimated the distance from the event back to the parking lot on foot. The last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site at about 11:50 p.m. Uniformed officers from several departments stayed until all lots were cleared and assisted numerous people find cars parked in the area. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic returned to normal at about 12:30 a.m.

Omaha Police Department spokesman

Full response from Omaha Airport Authority

The campaign event hosted by TAC Air was planned and coordinated by the White House and Trump Campaign.

This event coordination included transportation of attendees by bus as the event site lacked sufficient parking space for an event this size.

The Trump Campaign rented 40 buses to transport attendees from remote parking locations on and off the airport to and from the event site. Transportation to the event site began around 10:00am with an estimated 25,000 participants transported to the event site over the course of a 10-hour period.

Transportation of attendees back to the remote parking lots began immediately following the conclusion of the event at approximately 9:03 pm.

Due to the size of the crowd and security requirements, return transportation took time. Some participants elected to walk from the event site along Lindbergh Plaza back to the remote parking locations. Buses picked up the last attendees from the event site at approximately 11:45pm.

Throughout the duration of the event, six individuals were transported to local hospitals by paramedics due to a variety of medical conditions.

Omaha Airport Authority spokesman

CNN contributed to this report.

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