Tensions high as protesters disrupt Trump’s Albuquerque rally

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Tensions were high inside and outside the Albuquerque Convention Center as presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump held a rally there Tuesday evening.

Several times, Demonstrators interrupted Trump’s speech and were removed. There were confrontations outside between Trump supporters and protesters. Shouting and name-calling flew in both directions. There were multiple different protests, and many remained peaceful.

Protesters

Courtesy photo

People holding a peaceful protest before Trump’s rally began.

Police were on high alert, things got tense when a group of about 100 people broke through a barricade outside while Trump was speaking inside. They stormed toward the convention center doors and were met just outside them by police in riot gear. Then a human shield of people formed between the protesters and police to help calm the situation.

After that, dozens of additional Albuquerque police officers joined the security efforts at the convention center.

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Through it all, Trump was… Trump. Before an estimated crowd of 8,000, he insulted journalists, calling them “dishonest slime.” He renewed his pledge to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border — in the state with the highest percentage of people who are Hispanic and Latino. He called U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” in a state with a high Native American population.

And, after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez — who has refused to endorse Trump — said she was too busy to attend his Albuquerque rally, Trump took a couple of shots at her, too.

“Your governor, she has got to do a better job,” Trump said. He complained about the state’s economy, crime in Albuquerque, and Syrian refugees in the state. He also criticized the high number of people receiving government assistance in New Mexico and joked that maybe he should run for governor here.

A Martinez spokesman responded by saying the governor wouldn’t be bullied into supporting a candidate.

“Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t realize Governor Martinez wasn’t elected in 2000, that she has fought for welfare reform, and has strongly opposed the President’s Syrian refugee plan,” said Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan. “But the pot shots weren’t about policy, they were about politics. And the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans.”

Maritnez, Lonergan said, “doesn’t care about what Donald Trump says about her – she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She didn’t hear anything about that today.”

Demonstrators interrupted Trump’s speech several times and many, like these two, were removed:

Before Trump’s rally begin, demonstrations outside were largely peaceful, though there were a few arguments between Trump supporters and protesters as the line of people to get into the convention center snaked past protesters.

Trump line

Courtesy photo

Protesters near people who were lined up to enter Trump’s rally. Some protesters reportedly shouted insults at people waiting in line.

During the rally, some protesters lit pro-Trump T-shirts on fire. As tensions increased after the rally, some people threw burning T-shirts and other items at police, reportedly threw rocks and possibly broke windows at the convention center, and tried to barge through the convention center doors at people still inside. Police used smoke grenades and pepper spray canisters to try to disperse crowds (the embedded photo tweet below incorrectly says it was tear gas):

Tense confrontations reportedly developed after the rally in the streets near the convention center. It’s also noteworthy that some protests remained peaceful throughout. Some demonstrators thanked Albuquerque police officers for their service.

Soon after the rally ended, Albuquerque police tweeted this:

After the rally, Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis, a Republican, sent a statement to the media condemning the violence — and blaming left-leaning groups that were part of the protests.

“The violence that we’re seeing this evening is absolutely unacceptable, and it is not the fault of Donald Trump, his campaign, or the attendees at the rally this evening,” Lewis said in a statement released by his office. “It is directly the result of so called public interest groups, such as ProgressNM and the Southwest Organizing Project [SWOP], fomenting hate.”

“These organizations this evening devolved from community action groups to hate groups by every usual measure,” Lewis said. “This was not a protest — it was a riot that was the result of a mob trying to cause damage and injury to public property and innocent citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble.”

But others who were in the crowd said SWOP and ProgressNow New Mexico organizers were among those working to keep the protests peaceful. SWOP Executive Director Javier Benavidez is the man shown in the video tweet that’s embedded above being removed from inside Trump’s rally for peacefully disrupting the event.

And New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas, whose officers were on scene during the Trump rally, had a different take than Lewis.

“People protesting at the event weren’t the problem,” Kassetas said, adding that the violence “had nothing to do with that peaceful protest.”

Meanwhile, in Española, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, rallied her supporters at a peaceful event:

This breaking news article has been updated with new information.

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