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Trump draws eager Pa. voters, protesters

Donald Trump ripped Republican rivals for strategizing against him and railed against a "rigged" election system during a campaign rally Monday at West Chester University.

Donald Trump ripped Republican rivals for strategizing against him and railed against a "rigged" election system during a campaign rally Monday at West Chester University.

Ahead of Tuesday's primary, Trump urged Pennsylvanians to vote for him and his "slate." Voters will select 54 unbound delegates - three from each congressional district - who are free to support the candidate of their choice at the Republican National Convention this summer.

"It used to be you could just vote.... But they say vote for this slate," the billionaire businessman told the crowd filling the university fieldhouse, which was dense with students. "It's a rigged system, a crooked system."

Trump didn't name any delegates, though a man was handing out lists as people streamed out of the fieldhouse after the rally.

West Chester University's field house reached capacity, which is 3,500 people, according to a school spokeswoman. About 4,500 people were left outside.

One woman, who does not attend the university, was arrested inside the field house for "aggressive and unruly behavior," said Nancy Gainer, executive director of the Office of Communications.

Trump used the rally to attack Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the deal they announced Sunday to focus their campaign efforts on different states to block Trump from getting the nomination. Under the agreement, the candidates said Cruz would devote his resources to Indiana, leaving Oregon and New Mexico to Kasich.

"I've been doing this for 10 months. These guys, they're politicians all their lives, that's what they do," Trump said. "I have millions of votes more" than them.

Later, he said, "that's called collusion . . . Only in politics can you do stuff like this."

He dismissed Cruz as betting on multiple rounds of balloting at the convention - "I never liked short-sellers" - and belittled Kasich as "doing worse than many of the people who left months ago."

"This is just a guy who's a stubborn guy, who eats like a slob," Trump said. Kasich took press questions in between bites of food at the Penrose Diner in South Philadelphia earlier Monday.

The crowd chanted "USA" as Trump vowed to "knock down ISIS" and roared with applause as he promised, "Oh, we'll build a wall. Don't worry about it."

Trump, who was joined by his son Eric, slipped a few Pennsylvania references into his remarks, noting that he went to Wharton ("the best business school in the world") and describing the state's loss of manufacturing jobs ("unacceptable").

To students, Trump said he would "work on" student loans and creating jobs. "You're going to have so many jobs to choose from when you get out, so hang in there, kids," he said.

Andrea Sankaran, an event planner and West Chester resident, said she wanted to come to represent the borough's residents.

"If there was any reason he chose West Chester as a place where he thought he'd be welcomed, I wanted to show there's a lot of West Chester that doesn't feel that way," she said.

Some students began trickling out of the field house about midway through the 52-minute rally. Baily Leet, 19, of Honesdale, was among those who stayed through the end.

"I got goosebumps everywhere," Leet said. Trump is "just different than any other president we've had" and would "bring the patriotism back to the country."

Ted Kozlowski, 55, of Aston, said Tuesday would be the first election he'd vote in "in about 20 years."

"Never cared before," said Kozlowski, who works for Boeing and said he supports Trump's call to bring jobs back to the United States. He said that if people don't vote now, "in four years, your vote's not going to matter with illegal immigration."

Ahead of the 4 p.m. rally, a long line of people snaked toward the Hollinger Field House. Students for a Democratic Society organized a "West Chester Dump Trump" protest near the fieldhouse.

Protesters, who were the loudest group in the hours before the rally, chanted "Trump's a racist" and other anti-Trump messages, and waved signs, such as "No Hate in Our State" and "Love Trumps Hate."

Mariella Romberger of Downingtown held a sign with a crossed out photo of Trump with "You're Fired" written on it. The sign said the same in Spanish on the other side. She said she opposes Trump's beliefs.

"For me, he's all about hate and dividing people and everything I think is wrong with society," said Romberger, a 45-year-old translator and interpreter from Peru who has lived in the United States for two decades.

As it became clear around 3:30 that no one else would be getting inside the field house, people in line for the rally formed a group and turned to face the protesters. Police on bicycles formed barriers in between the groups.

Trump supporters yelled, "Let's Go, Trump!" and "Get a job!"

At one point, both sides yelled competing "USA!" chants.

Nick Rossi and Francesco Mazza, Trump supporters, were two of the many disappointed people who could not get in to see the candidate. The high school seniors got tickets online and drove from Methacton High School to see the first presidential candidate for which they will ever vote. They said they came for a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"Politics will never be like this again," Rossi said. "We need enhanced border patrol. We need to bring jobs back to America. We don't need another politician."

Jim Workman, a manager of a mine in Port Elizabeth, N.J., who got in line around 1:30 p.m, also was unable to get in.

"It's Trump or the establishment," said Workman, a Millville, N.J., resident who wore a "Make America Great Again" hat. "You got the corrupt Democratic establishment and the corrupt Republican establishment."

On a possible contested Republican convention, he said, "If they play their slimy little games, I'm sitting out."

mhanna@phillynews.com

856-779-3232

@maddiehanna

www.philly.com/christiechronicles

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