Donald Trump was forced to elude hundreds of protesters, some of whom broke through barricades and stormed the hotel where he was speaking before the California Republican Party convention in Burlingame on Friday, a dicey situation that Trump said was like “crossing the border.”
The tense scene came after about 20 people were arrested Thursday night in Costa Mesa, as protesters swarmed the streets outside Trump’s rally that drew more than 30,000.
On Friday, Trump had to push his speech back by more than an hour because of the chaos. His motorcade also had to pull off the side of a highway, as television networks aired live footage of the candidate climbing a grassy incline surrounded by Secret Service agents as he sought an alternative entrance to the hotel.
“That was not the easiest entrance I’ve ever made,” Trump quipped in the opening of his speech. “I felt like I was crossing the border, actually.”
He continued, seemingly unscathed, talking up his blowout success in five primaries earlier this week and telling the crowd that he’s all but locked up the nomination. “I think it’s going to come to an end very soon,” he declared.
He assured members of the California Republican Party that he is a true conservative, adding, “but at this point, who cares? We have to straighten out the country.”
The Republican front-runner had little more to say about the protests. Instead, he took jabs at his opponents — criticizing Ted Cruz for announcing Carly Fiorina as his running mate. “When she left the race, she had no votes. And you know what, maybe it’s a good move? … I don’t think so,” he said.
He pivoted to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, saying the worst move Cruz made was making a deal with Kasich. “As soon as I heard, I said that’s the end of them, both of them.”
His off-the-cuff boasts came as the hostility outside simmered. Police officers in riot gear faced off with the protesters, some of whom busted through temporary metal barriers and managed to rush the building’s entrance ahead of Trump’s arrival.
Jim Brulte, the state GOP chairman, said the protesters were trying to silence Trump. “Some people who don’t believe in free speech tried to stop Donald Trump from entering the building,” he said.
Violence has marked Trump’s volatile campaign and at times has overtaken his events. He was forced to cancel a rally in Chicago last month after violent clashes broke out. The next day, the Secret Service swarmed to protect Trump at an Ohio rally after a man broke through a barricade and tried to charge at the stage.
Trump has also been sharply criticized for inciting violence, encouraging his supporters to challenge protesters and saying he’d pay their legal fees.
Cruz, whose own chances of winning the nomination are getting slimmer by the day, on Friday came to Trump’s defense when it comes to the violence connected to his events.
Cruz told reporters in Jeffersonville, Indiana, before a rally that it isn’t “appropriate” if protesters are “crossing the line to violence.”
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