Politico | January 6, 2016 | Report by Ben Schreckinger
Campaign gives out 20,000 tickets for 1,400-seat theater.
BURLINGTON, VT. — The city of Burlington is scrambling to react to Donald Trump’s decision to issue close to 20,000 tickets for a Thursday night rally at a theater that seats only 1,400 people.
Anticipating overflow crowds and a number of planned protests, the city’s police department took the unusual step on Friday of issuing a lengthy statement warning in part, “We reserve the prerogative to enforce the law in cases where expression or free movement throughout the city is unreasonably stifled through intimidation, force, obstruction, destruction of property, etc., or any other unlawful act.”
The campaign’s decision to issue tens of thousands of extra tickets comes after reports that supporters of Bernie Sanders — the city’s onetime mayor whose presidential campaign headquarters sits across a park from the site of Thursday’s rally — and other progressives have been requesting tickets en masse in an attempt to leave seats empty and embarrass Trump. Political campaigns, including Trump’s, regularly issue more tickets for events than venues can hold to account for no-shows, but the scale of this overflow ticketing is extraordinary.
The Burlington Police reported that of the tickets issued, at least 6,500 have gone to people with valid emails who have confirmed their intent to show up.
The department’s warning only contributes to locals’ expectation that Thursday night’s rally will create a brouhaha here like nothing in recent memory. “That’s basically unprecedented for the police to issue a statement like that,” said former Burlington city councilor Ed Adrian.
Even before the decision to issue extra tickets, many citizens viewed Trump’s decision to depart from the typical primary campaign trail and to come to this liberal bastion as something of a sneak attack. “It’s caught everybody a little bit by surprise, and no one expected him to come here and he announced it in the middle of the holidays on New Year’s Eve,” said James Haslam, executive director of Rights and Democracy Vermont, one of several groups planning protests. “In many ways it’s smart. People were not necessarily prepared. People have been kind of scrambling around this thing.”
In a possible attempt to preempt any accusations from Trump that the city’s police are Sanders partisans, the department disclaimed in its statement, “The Burlington Police Department does not endorse candidates for political office, nor has its rank and file union, and does not comment on electoral politics.” Spokeswomen for the police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday afternoon, Trump tweeted, “Huge crowd expected tomorrow night! VT Police say first come, first serve. Arrive early!”