Photos: Gunpowder Residue on Last Day of the Trump Campaign
"Do you photograph fireworks or some other substance with gunpowder?" asks a friendly secret service agent named John in the lobby of the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC.
They'd already brought the K-9 by who sniffed my gear and moved on - I thought I was good and just waiting for confirmation to carry on. In all, I'd been waiting on the outside of the metal detectors for 30 minutes after trying to enter the campaign rally as a just dude with a camera.
I was in no rush. No assignments or laptop races with wire photographers today. And no constraints of a media pen in the alternate reality of a Trump campaign rally. I could walk among the madness.
"No sir," I respond.
"Well, let me take a look at what you got here, he says as he looks over the individual components of my gear. "Are you sure you're not around gunpowder?" I shake my head and take off a camera lens and hand it to John. He looks through it. "Well, I'm O.K. with what you've got here, you can head on through."
He suggests I take my gear by a local K-9 team and see I'm if I've got some residue - to avoid future snafus. I can't think of anything that it could be and make my way through the two forms of metal detectors. When I'm getting wanded, I turn around as requested and am face to face with the next man in line. We both smile awkwardly. It's a weird moment.
Trump isn't expected for another 90 minutes or so I do some wandering and stake out some locations to shoot from.
"Would you have ever though there'd be a day when you you'd be proud to be called deplorable?" says a man to my right as I post up on the floor of the venue. I can't tell if he is asking me or somebody else so I pretend like I didn't hear him. The echo chamber fails. Maybe he is testing me. Maybe I need to get better at talking to people in these scenarios.
For the next hour, the campaign parades out a cast of supporters: David Clarke, Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, daughter-in-law and NC State graduate Lara Trump, Governor Pat McCrory, Mike Huckabee, and two African American women going by the names Diamond and Silk. The crowd seems to be entertained the most by the latter pair, outside of Trump himself.
Thirty minutes before Trump is scheduled to arrive a campaign representative tells me it's time to go in the pen. I explain that I'm not credentialed working media and there is some confusion. "Well, we don't normally let big lenses in...Where will you be then?" he asks.
"I figure I'll start on the floor and eventually retreat up into the stands." Still confused as to what to do, I tell him I'll wait where I'm where standing if he needs to confirm what to do. Whatever the case, I'm not going in the pen again.
I'm still standing in the same spot when they cue up the candidate's intro music and I scoot off to an place I'd staked a shot out earlier. The crowd roars as the Republican nominee walks out, soaking up the attention. He does this weird thing where he raises both fists, but not above his head.
“There are thousands of people outside waiting to get in, but we should start. Do you agree?” Trump says as he takes the podium.
Without fail, the Donald rails on the media - as some of the most dishonest people in the world. As he points to the pen, a chorus of jeers and boos echoes through the venue, bouncing off the glass windows in the venue of alternate reality. I was happy to not be in the pen.
Before the end of the event, as my mind wandered through the stump speech, I remembered spending ten weeks this summer following a class of soldiers through basic training at Fort Jackson.
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