5,000 Gather In Close Proximity, Many Without Masks, For Trump Campaign Rally In Michigan

Trump in Freeland
Photo credit FREELAND, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 10: Supporters wait in line to enter a rally with President Donald Trump on September 10, 2020 in Freeland, Michigan. Recent polls show Joe Biden has a slight lead in the battleground state. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(WWJ) A campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Michigan drew a massive, tightly-packed crowd of supporters -- many without masks. 

Reporters on the scene Thursday in Freeland, an unincorporated community in Saginaw County's Tittabawassee Township, counted thousands of people gathered for the indoor/outdoor event at an airport hangar.

Crowd size estimates ranged from more than 4,000 to around 5,500 people. 

“This is not the crowd of a person who comes in second place," President Trump said.

Clearly, by looking at photos and video of the event, Michigan's COVID-19 social distancing requirements (6 feet apart) were not being enforced. 

NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake said, however attendees were getting their temperatures checked as they arrived.

Masks are being handed out for free, but there is no mask requirement at the event. "I’d say 5-10% are wearing masks," Haake wrote in a tweet.

While executive orders in place limit gatherings to 100 people throughout most of Michigan, exceptions are made to allow for "political speech." 

Trump calls his rallies “peaceful protests," Haake reported. 

Earlier in the day, MLive reporter Malachi Barrett said it was a "festive tailgate-like atmosphere" ahead of the event. He later estimated about a quarter of those in attendance at the rally were masked. 

While made no move to shut down the rally, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wasn't happy it was happening amid the pandemic, according to WWJ's Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick.

"She's saying that he's probably not going to mask up, we're going to have a crowd that won't be masking up and (saying) 'This is very distressing,' Skubick reported. 

Michigan, narrowly won by Trump in 2016, in considered an important battleground state in the 2020 presidential election. Trump's opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, was just in Michigan on a campaign stop Wednesday. 

Trump landed at the airport a little after 7 p.m. Thursday to deliver a campaign speech, telling the crowd the upcoming election will be "the most important" in U.S. history.

The president said he is "up in the polls" in Michigan, adding, "If we win, American wins."

Speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump called it "the China plague," saying China "should never have let it happen." Trump said he thinks a coronavirus vaccine is going to come "very soon." Even without it, he said, "we are around the corner," and "the numbers are plunging."

Taking various swipes at his Democratic opponent, Trump said Biden is "waging war against the middle class." He added, however, that most people in the crowd appeared to be "upper class" or "elite." 

"The left wants to get rid of me, so they can come after you," Trump said, going on to list some of  his accomplishments so far as POTUS, including exemplary jobs numbers prior to the pandemic.

He claimed his policies have helped the U.S. auto industry. 

"You'd better vote for me," he told Michiganders. "I got you so many car plants." 

Trump urged those in the crowd: "Tell your governor to open up your state." He said it would be better if Michigan "had a governor who knew what the hell she was doing," saying he believes Democrat governors shut down their economies "for political reasons."