JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, spoke in Daytona Beach Wednesday afternoon, then made his way to the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena for an evening rally.
Lines began forming early for the Republican nominee's 7 p.m. appearance.
Thousands were in attendance when Trump took the stage at 7:45 p.m..
Trump supporter Artie Mellos got to the arena at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
“I didn't think I was going to be first,” Mellos said. “I just wanted to make sure that I made it in.”
As Mellos tried to stay cool in the shade, more and more supporters showed up throughout the day.
“I think it's going to be pretty packed,” Mellos said.
This is his second speech in Jacksonville, having held a rally at the Jacksonville Landing in October of last year.
Trump was expected to arrive at Jacksonville International Airport around 5:45 p.m. He'll be surrounded by Secret Service agents and police officers as he heads to the arena in a motorcade.
Organizers encouraged attendees to arrive early, because there’s going to be extra security all over.
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers had blocked off roads near the sports complex, building a perimeter around the arena Wednesday morning.
The U.S. Secret Service swept the area and installed metal detectors. They’re in charge of keeping Trump and those at the rally safe.
“They must protect him as though he were the president,” News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.
Smith said dozens of federal agents and police will be working the event, and several will be undercover.
“Intelligence agents will be here in plain clothes, just walking around, just listening to conversations, what people are saying, just sort of getting a feel of the attitude of the crowd,” Smith said.
Trump is a polarizing candidate, so police are expecting protestors.
News4Jax spoke with protesters as crowds began to gather.
“We have to say trump doesn’t represent Jacksonville,” 14-year-old protester Andrew said. He has no clue what he’s doing.”
Smith pointed out that they have a right to be at the event as well.
“As long as they are not impeding traffic or blocking people from coming in on the sidewalk, they will be allowed to protest,” Smith said.
Supporter, Charles Daniels, who was beaten up for expressing his support for Trump a few weeks ago was at the rally and had the opportunity to briefly meet the nominee.
"I told him, Mr. Trump I got my butt beat and a broken arm, and he was trying to listen but security was pushing him and he said wait a minute, what happened? I tried to explain a little bit to him, and he said 'Well, let me sign your cast for you,' And he put his arm around me and it was wonderful," Daniels said. "I love Donald Trump."
Some supporters say they came out to support Trumps policies.
"I like trump for being really cool, supporter, Spencer Marble said. "He treats everyone fairly. He wants everyone treated fairly and equally. People that want us to protect other countries, that want our protection and not pay for it, he wants them to pay for what they're getting. I believe his tax plan and everything is really good. He runs a business. He's very successful."
Demonstrators, like Carissa Vaughn, also attended the rally.
"I asked one of the officers who were kicking us out, why we were being removed and he said it’s a private event, and I said well, I have tickets to this private event, so can you give me a different explanation, and all four of them acted like they didn’t hear my questions," Vaughn said.
There were other demonstrators that expressed serious concerns about a Trump administration.
"I think it’s going to end up in a revolution, demonstrator Barb Kelly said. "We’re going to have a civil war here. His ideas are very dangerous. He’s never for the people. His ideas are for Trump. His ideas are 'Me, me, I, I.' Hillary is for all the people. She’s for everyone and she’s shown that throughout the years. She’s the best qualified candidate, and she knows how the government has run and how it should run in the future.”
Florida key as campaigns continue
Local politicos believe you will see many of the presidential candidates appear in the area over the next few months.
"I expect him back many times before the election. Florida is a critical state. Duval County and our surrounding areas are important to the Republican tally in Florida," said Susie Wiles, co-chair of the Trump campaign for Florida.
Political analysts believe winning Northeast Florida is pivotal to winning the state in November. Dr. Matthew Corrigan, a political science professor at the University of North Florida, says Trump's weak poll numbers with Hispanic voters mean winning Jacksonville is key.
"He has to do really well here in Jacksonville. What I mean by really well is, try to win the city by eight to ten percentage points," Corrigan said.
North Florida is known as being conservative but in recent elections, the Democrats have had the edge.
"I want to say 48 percent in 2008 and 47 percent in 2012," Corrigan said.
Local Clinton supporters say they are still confident.
"We're getting a tremendous response here," Lisa King, regional leader of Hillary For America said. "That's what we're going to be doing. That is the work that Democrats do."