A confrontation between protesters and supporters of Donald Trump in California turned violent on Thursday night. Protesters angrily voiced their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate as he brought his campaign to traditionally conservative Orange County.
Some 20 people were arrested by police in Costa Mesa, Calif., during protests which had begun peacefully on Thursday afternoon during Mr. Trump’s speech but increasingly spilled into the streets.
Some protesters blocked traffic, while other hurled rocks at motorists and smashed the window of at least one police cruiser, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Carrying signs that read “Dump the Trump” and waving American and Mexican flags, some protesters said Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric had inflamed tensions that led to the angry response.
“I’m protesting because I want equal rights for everybody, and I want peaceful protest," Daniel Lujan, who was one of hundreds of protesters in the crowd, told the Times. Many of the protesters appeared to be young and Latino, the paper reports.
“I knew this was going to happen," Mr. Lujan added. “It was going to be a riot. He deserves what he gets.”
Trump, known for his hard-line policies on immigration — including the infamous promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it and for characterizing Mexicans as “rapists” — had come to the traditional Republican stronghold in California, looking to shore up support before the state's June 7 primary.
“Your crime numbers, they’re going through the roof, and we can’t have it anymore,” he told the capacity crowd, adding “no state has suffered more from open borders than California.” Some supporters who had tickets were also turned away from the packed rally.
The county’s increasing ethnic diversity has caused Republican voter registration to slip below 40 percent recently, though Republicans continue to hold an 8-point advantage over Democrats, the Orange County Register notes. Its high percentage of wealthy donors also make it an attractive fundraising destination.
Evidence of the county’s changing demographics was on vivid display in the angry reaction to Trump’s appearance Thursday, mirroring the strong opposition that forced the candidate to cancel a rally at the University of Illinois Chicago in March.
One Trump supporter had his face bloodied during a scuffle as he attempted to leave the venue where the rally was held, the Associated Press reports.
Police in riot gear and on horseback pushed the crowd back and away from the Pacific Amphitheatre, while there were no major injuries and police did not use force to disperse the crowd. The protests began to break up about three hours after Trump’s speech ended.
A Trump rally earlier in the week in Anaheim, Calif., had also turned contentious when clashes between supporters and protesters led the police to use pepper spray. Trump was not present at that event.
One supporter said she likes Trump because he has vowed to put the country first. “It’s obvious that America loves Trump,” Ly Kou of Ontario Calif., who is from Laos, told the AP. Pointing to the crowd waiting to hear his speech, she added, “This thing about him being racist? Look around the crowd.”
But as the sun set, protesters and supporters grew more openly hostile to each other. Some supporters waved signs that read “Gays for Trump” while other carried signs that read “Latinos for Trump” and “Black Christian Women for Trump,” the Times reports.
Protesters were equally fervent. “We could be peaceful and do things different,” Arianna Perez told the Times, “but if we did we wouldn’t get our voice heard.”
This report includes material from the Associated Press.