Police outnumber protesters as tensions continue at Trump’s California rallies
Protesters at a rally in Southern California held by Donald Trump on Wednesday carried signs saying “Stop Nazi Trump” and “Make America Hate Again,” as a large police presence stood by a day after a Trump event in New Mexico erupted into chaos.
Police outnumbered the 100 demonstrators outside the convention center where Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee in the Nov. 8 presidential election, was speaking. Many were unhappy about Trump’s views on Hispanic immigrants and ripped apart a piñata resembling Trump and placed the paper mache head on top of a flagpole with a large Mexican flag.
Police had warned they would take “swift” action if protests at the event in Anaheim escalated. About 100 police officers stood watch behind metal barricades and another 50 sheriff’s deputies lined up along the convention center.
It was not until long after the rally that police were finally called in to disperse the protesters. A police helicopter circled overhead telling people to disperse or risk arrest.
Inside, Trump was disrupted by protesters as he spoke, including one who waved a Mexican flag.
“Do not hurt him,” Trump said as a man was led out of the arena. “I say that for the television cameras. Even though he is a bad person.”
Trump’s appearances in the U.S. West in areas with significant Hispanic populations have drawn large protests – such as Tuesday night’s violence in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where rock-throwing demonstrators were arrested. Trump’s remarks that Mexico is sending criminals and rapists to the United States, made when he launched his campaign last year, have been a lightning rod for protesters.
Trump’s problems with Latino voters could dampen his Nov. 8 election hopes. A poll by the political research group Latino Decisions found 87 percent of registered Hispanic voters view Trump unfavorably. States like Nevada and New Mexico have growing Hispanic populations that could tip the election.
Trump’s trip west came ahead of the California and New Mexico nominating contests on June 7. Trump also planned to hold several large fundraising events while in California. It is the first high-dollar fundraising event the New York real estate mogul has held after largely self-funding his primary campaign.
Mike McGetrick, one of two people carrying “Latinos for Trump” signs at the Anaheim rally, said he is part of a group called America First Latinos, whose website describes its members as believing in “the rule of law, hard work and the American Dream.” He said his neighborhood in nearby Orange is “being overrun” by undocumented immigrants.
“There are so many of them, and they’re everywhere,” said McGetrick, 62, a retired city worker. “I can tell an illegal from a regular person just like that.”
Trump supporters have been hopeful that his likely opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, will be dogged by her own problems to offset his difficulty with some populations. On Wednesday, Clinton faced renewed criticism about her use of a private email server for government business while secretary of state after a report by the State Department’s inspector general said she had violated agency policies.
Trump only briefly addressed the report in his appearance in Anaheim.
“Not good,” he said. “Inspector general’s report, not good.”
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump called the protesters in Albuquerque “thugs who were flying the Mexican flag.”
“The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!” he said.
Trump headed next to Anaheim, which is about 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Los Angeles. At the city’s 7,500-seat convention center, authorities boosted staffing levels, deployed officers on motorcycles to control traffic and urged attendees to be on their best behavior, Anaheim Police Sergeant Daron Wyatt said.
“We respect the rights of everyone to protest and get their word out,” Wyatt said, adding they must do so “peacefully and within the confines of the law.”
City officials said they were prepared for Trump’s appearance.
Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada said, “Everyone has the right to participate without fear of violence or disorder and we are prepared to take swift and decisive enforcement action should it become necessary.”
On Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters tried to swarm the convention center in Albuquerque where Trump spoke, knocking down barricades, waving Mexican flags and hurling rocks and bottles at police officers in riot gear. Police responded with smoke bombs and pepper spray.
Police said they made arrests both outside and inside the rally, where protesters continually interrupted Trump’s speech. The police department’s Twitter feed said officers were treated for injuries caused by thrown rocks.
(Reporting by Megan Cassella, Suzannah Gonzales, Emily Stephenson, Amy Tennery, Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman; Writing by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bill Trott and Leslie Adler)