Disputing Trump claim, officials say campaign agreed to 1K-person cap for rally

Fire marshal says fire codes, not politics, restricted size of audience

By Randy Ludlow & Catherine Candisky
The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After hundreds of people were turned away from his rally today, Donald Trump saw politics behind the decision to limit the size of his Columbus town hall to 1,000 people — and made sure the public and press knew it.

Fire and convention center officials say, however, the Republican presidential nominee's campaign knew on Friday that the space would be restricted to 1,000 people.

In this Aug. 1, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In this Aug. 1, 2016 file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

"We've had thousands of people outside, thousands, who were turned away for political reasons, purely political reasons," Trump told reporters before he spoke at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

The fire marshal was "given orders — no more than a thousand people ... we could have had four, five, six thousand people ... that's politics at its lowest," said Trump, who later asked his audience, "Is the mayor a Democrat?"

Columbus Assistant Fire Chief Jim Cannell said fire officials met with Trump's staff on Friday to inform them audience capacity was restricted due to nearby exits being blocked by construction on the north side of the building.

He shrugged off Trump's criticism. "We don't get caught up in that ... we're just doing our job."

John Page, general manager of the convention center, confirmed what Cannell said and added that an earlier Trump rally was in a larger space before construction began.

"Initially, (campaign officials) suggested it would be by invitation only," said Jennifer Davis, spokeswoman for the convention center.

The Trump campaign offered tickets online beginning Saturday to the event, with no warning about restrictions on the crowd size. Hundreds — if not a thousand — were turned away disappointed after standing in line along High Street in the heat.

Kenneth Gray, 51, of Columbus, was among those upset, along with his two daughters. Gray said he had entered the convention center only to find that the event bar code on his smartphone would not be accepted. He was told he would need to go to a nearby kiosk to obtain a paper ticket.

"I was here at 1 p.m., I was in, at the front of the line. Now, it's closed," said Gray, who was upset with event organizers. "Why in 2016 would you not accept a bar code?" he asked.

Trump also criticized a fire marshal in Colorado Springs, Colorado last week. The fire marshal there capped the number of people allowed in the Trump rally. Trump then said the fire marshal didn’t know what he was doing and was “probably a Democrat," according to the Denver Post.

Copyright 2016 The Columbus Dispatch

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