“Get a job, losers!”
shouted one of the more vocal Donald Trump supporters who stood in line
Tuesday afternoon to watch the presumptive Republican nominee speak in
The message was directed at two University of New Mexico
students protesting the event. One of those students, Cassady Leonard, carried
a sign that read “Hate won’t make us great.” She shrugged off the jeers. “If
they support Donald Trump, I expect ignorance,” Leonard tells SFR.
“That booty belongs in the Valley!” another Trump supporter taunted.
(Leonard was wearing shorts, along with a Bernie Sanders button pinned to her
The heckler, Angela Zerah, also wore a button. Hers read:
“Bomb the SHIT out of ISIS.”
“I like the fact that Trump wants to protect our border,”
Zerah says, referring to the businessman’s signature policy proposal of
building a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. “People say he’s racist. He’s
not racist. He just wants to protect the ones we got right now.”
Angela Zerah supports Donald Trump for president.
Zerah, a 46-year-old medical administrator who lives in
Albuquerque, says she has never voted in her life but plans to cast her ballot
for the first time in November.
By midafternoon, thousands of people had snaked around the
Albuquerque Convention Center for Trump’s first rally in New Mexico. Baseball
caps bearing the candidate’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” came in red,
blue, white, pink and camouflage.
Most in line were there to support Trump but
others came to disrupt the rally.
And a few, like 18-year-old Bryan Metzger from Albuquerque,
just wanted entertainment. “I’m here because it’s a spectacle,” Metzger
says. “It’s kind of humorous.”
Cecil Stark, a retired electrical engineer with
a bushy mustache, wore a Transformers
t-shirt one size too small. Stark, 69, lived in Santa Fe for 30 years before
moving to Albuquerque for cheaper housing.
Stark says he settled on Trump after his
other choices, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and neurosurgeon Ben
Carson, dropped out. But Stark says he is happy with the way things
have turned out.
“There’s nothing he says that I don’t like,” Stark claims.
He’s especially drawn to Trump’s business background and tough rhetoric. “He
wants to make America what it was before.”
Across the street,
Tonita Gonzales, a curandera from the
North Valley, blew into a conch shell as burnt sage wafted in the air.
“Forgive those that don’t know better,” Gonzales said as she
directed a crowd through a traditional Indigenous
ceremony. Behind her, Trump supporters and protesters were engaged in heated
arguments. But Gonzales was unfazed. She continued speaking: “Heal the hatred
they hold. Show them compassion so they can heal.”
Tonita Gonzales leads an Indigenous ceremony outside the Trump rally.
In the hours before Trump’s rally began, hundreds of
demonstrators gathered directly across from the Convention
to protest the racist and misogynist rhetoric that some believe drives his
campaign. Organizers led the crowd in chants of “¡Trump,
escucha! !El pueblo esta en
lucha!” (“Trump, listen! The people are struggling!”)
Critics are especially repulsed by two of his signature
policy proposals: a border wall that Mexico would
pay for and a ban on Muslims travelling to the US (he has somewhat backed down
from the latter).
“Trump is all about hate and racism, and I’m not,” says
Bernadette Garcia, wearing sunglasses under an ACLU baseball cap. “As a person
of color, I find him offensive. As a woman, I find him offensive.”
Lydia Karnikova, a tourist from Prague, came out for a slice
of American politics on her last day in the country. She likened Trump’s rise
to that of a far-right extremist movement in her home
country of the Czech Republic.
“Nobody knew this could have happened,” Karnikova says.
“Everybody was still mocking him a year ago.”
Trump walked onto
the Convention Center stage to “Get Ready for This,”
the pump-up song heard in NBA arenas across the country.
earlier, a disembodied voice announced over a loudspeaker: “If a protester
starts demonstrating, please do not touch or harm the protester.”
During an hourlong speech, the onetime reality
TV star boasted about his successes, insulted his critics and encouraged
security guards to kick out demonstrators who interrupted him.
Trump rattled through his list of derogatory nicknames: “crazy”
Bernie Sanders, “goofy” Elizabeth Warren and the “dishonest slime” of the media.
But he saved his harshest words for “crooked” Hillary Clinton.
screams, and it drives me crazy,” he said, pretending
to cover his ears before launching into an off-the-mark
impression of the former secretary of state.
In one of the biggest applause lines of the night, Trump blamed
Gov. Susana Martinez for an increase in food stamp recipients in New Mexico.
“We have to get your governor and get going,” he said to the
crowd. “She’s got to do a better job, OK? She’s got to do a better job.”
Trump also lamented the relocation of Syrian refugees to the
state, saying, “If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening.”
Protesters occasionally interrupted the rally, only to be
drowned out by supporters chanting “USA!” or the candidate’s name. In what has
become a recurring motif on the Trump trail, the candidate mocked protesters as
security guards escorted them out of the building.
Police escorted several protesters out of the building.
“He can’t get a date, so he’s doing this
instead,” he said, as guards brought a protester down from the bleachers.
“That kid looks like he’s 10 years old,” he said about
another protester. The crowd ate it up, and Trump fed off their energy.
“There’s nowhere in the world safer than a Trump rally.”
As darkness fell, shouts of “Fuck Trump!” echoed
through the streets of Albuquerque. Another group of protesters shouted the two-word
message to passersby, to each other and to no one
Trucks clogged a
two-block stretch near the Convention Center.
Drivers blared hip-hop and burned rubber, clouding the air with thick smoke.
Protesters stood on truck beds, defiantly waving the Mexican flag. The scene
felt like a party.
One of those
protesters, Tony Torres, tells SFR, “I’m supporting my kind. I don’t want that
fucker to come around here. We deserve better than that.” Torres, an
18-year-old who drove down from Santa Fe, says he
did so with his parents’ permission. “I’m not letting anybody take me out of my
Back in front of the
Dustin Chavez-Davis, a UNM student wearing a neon yellow vest, tried to stop
unruly protesters from throwing bottles at the police. An earlier ruckus during
the rally shattered the Convention Center’s
glass door, forcing Trump
supporters to leave the building through an alternate exit.
“We’re trying to
keep it peaceful, man,” Chavez-Davis says. “But there are elements in the
crowd. People are not listening. People are upset.”
As the night wore
on, any semblance of order quickly crumbled away. Protesters pelted
mounted police with a steady stream of pebbles, with the
occasional fist-sized rock added into the mix. Some jumped on top
of police cruisers.
Police wearing riot
gear responded to the projectiles with pepper spray and smoke canisters. They
made four arrests, and several officers sustained injuries, according to
the APD Twitter account.
At a Wednesday rally in Anaheim, California, police arrested at least five protesters.
After the rally, a festive protest outside descended into violence.
See more photos from the event here.