MANCHESTER — Ba Nguyen, 83, planned to spend Wednesday night in a sleeping bag outside the Southern New Hampshire University arena, to be among the first to enter President Donald Trump's campaign rally Thursday evening.
Nguyen is with a Vietnamese-Americans for Trump group, all wearing matching maroon T-shirts as they camped outside the arena. Group organizer Chau Kelley said many in the group, including Nguyen, support Trump because he opposes communism and socialism.
"I like President Trump because he doesn't like communism," Nguyen said.
Kelley said Nguyen fought for South Vietnam in the Vietnam war, as did Kelley's father.
"My father fought — now it's my turn," she said.
Compared to her father's struggle, Kelley said, one night on the sidewalk is nothing.
Jeanne Lennon and Tina Winkler from Boston, and Sue Melcher of Maine sat just behind Nguyen and Kelley's group in the line. From their lawn chairs, they debated if Muslims can serve in Congress. Melcher said she thought Muslims prioritize religious law over secular laws, but Winkler said she thought there were plenty of moderate Muslims.
"This is America," said Lennon, looking around at the gathered Trump supporters. "We got people on corners that are protesting —"
Winkler cut in. "But it's still freedom of speech. That's the beauty of the United States."
Just then, a woman walking a small dog walked by, saying, "You're a piece of crap."
Melcher stood up and yelled for her to leave.
"You're not allowed be here," she told her.
"I live here," the dog walker said, before walking away.
Melcher said her support for Trump has cost her friendships and family relationships. In the line for the Trump rally, she said she felt like she belonged.
Gilles Boudreault, also in line, said he came from Barre, Vt., in part to find a sense of belonging at the rally.
"Just being out here is positive energy," Boudreault said around 9 p.m. Wednesday.
Twenty-two hours before the rally was scheduled to begin, Fox News flipped on a Jumbotron outside the arena, to scattered cheers. A man in a hat bearing Donald Trump's name passed out M&M cookies from a grocery store container.
Boudreault said he was looking forward to the rally, so he could see the President he thinks will be remembered as the greatest, and be around "12,000 people like me."