The intensifying protests at Donald Trump’s rallies have not shaken his rhetoric, as the Republican front-runner continued yesterday to take aim at “troublemakers and thugs” who created ugly scenes of unrest at his events in California last week — images that have handed the GOP front-runner a fresh rallying point.
“We had 31,000 people inside the arena. It was total love, no disturbance. The people outside the arena didn’t even hear the speech. They were just troublemakers and thugs,” Trump said in a statement to the Herald yesterday, adding, “Also, a much smaller disturbance than what the press made it looked like.”
Anti-Trump protesters took to the streets in southern California, blocking traffic and damaging five police cars in Costa Mesa on Thursday, while Friday in Burlingame, outside of San Francisco, hundreds of rowdy protesters broke through barricades and threw eggs at police outside a hotel where Trump addressed the state’s Republican convention.
Demonstrators in both places waved Mexican flags in protest of Trump’s remarks about Mexico and illegal immigration. In Burlingame, Trump had to be rerouted to a back entrance and scurry with his security detail between two concrete freeway barriers before hopping down onto a grass verge and walking across a service road.
Several Trump supporters said they were roughed up, but no serious injuries were reported.
It’s unclear what kind of reception Trump can expect at events tonight in Carmel and South Bend, Ind., ahead of tomorrow’s Hoosier State primary, in which Trump enjoys a 15-point lead over Ted Cruz in the polls.
The Republican National Committee, which hosts its nominating convention in Cleveland in July, pounced on the scenes as an indictment of Democrats.
“While we all cherish our First Amendment rights to express ourselves and assemble, the organized violence and destruction of public property by the Left is troubling,” RNC chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer said in a statement to the Herald yesterday. “It’s sad that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary Clinton have failed to condemn the behavior on the Left.”
The scenes created concern of violence at the Cleveland convention, which the RNC has assured will be secure. Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the Massachusetts GOP, said she expects tensions within the party to be calmed by July, when a nominee will be apparent.
“I think that will cut down greatly on some of the anxiety about going to Cleveland, but I don’t have any worries or anything like that,” she said. “The RNC gave us a very detailed plan about security about all sorts of things — inside the hall, at the locations where the delegations will be staying.”
Republic strategist Patrick Griffin of Purple Strategies said violent protests only play in to Trump’s essential appeal.
“It’s not going to be pretty, but it will propel his candidacy and his narrative right through November,” Griffin said. “Protesters are against change, Donald Trump is about change. He is the harbinger of change. He’s going to get protesters because that’s the fundamental premise of his candidacy. Hillary Clinton is more of the same, nobody’s really going to protest her because she’s going to keep things going the way they are.”
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