Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign stop in San Diego on Friday (May 27) resulted in a full day of pandemonium downtown, with thousands of protesters representing several agendas converging on the convention center where thousands more gathered in hopes of cheering the candidate on at a rally inside.
Police were a dominant presence even hours before either group began congregating, with hundreds of officers and sheriff's deputies, many equipped with full riot gear, lining the streets.
Access to the convention-center grounds was tightly restricted, with officers demanding evidence of rally tickets on approach; the availability of online tickets accessible via a few smartphone clicks even as opening speakers were onstage led to the event being overbooked by at least a thousand Trump fans, who waited in line outside until a few minutes before the rally concluded.
"How dare anybody talk about Mexicans like me as if we're rapists, criminals?" asked Enrique Morones, a leader with Border Angels, at a counter-rally organized by the local Democratic party. "Those are words of hate, and words lead to actions of hate. We've absolutely seen a rise in hateful behavior with the rise of Trump." Meanwhile, signs hoisted by protesters made barbs including "Without immigrants, Trump would have no wives."
While only a hundred or so showed up early for the Democrats' event, more began streaming in as members of the local janitors' union marched through the Gaslamp and immigrants' rights activists arrived following their own rally at Chicano Park.
The event remained largely peaceful in the lead-up to and for the duration of speeches by Trump and other Republican figures, including Sarah Palin and local congressmembers Darrell Issa and Duncan D. Hunter.
At one point, several water bottles were flung toward police from a pen that had been set up and designated a "free speech area" on Harbor Drive, which was closed near the convention center. The offense led to brief skirmishes between police and protesters who climbed the bank between Harbor and the center driveway. A similar zone was established by police on the north end of the street for counter-protests; it went unused as supporters were mostly able to gain entry to the convention center.
Afterward, as Trump supporters began streaming out of the rally, the situation grew tense. Arguments, and sometimes fights, broke out among the crowd, a minority of which lingered long after Trump was reportedly on his jet and bound for the next stop by about 4:30.
By 6:30, police had declared remaining protesters part of an unlawful assembly and began attempts to force those remaining to leave. At least 3 arrests and 18 injuries related to the event had been confirmed as of Friday evening. By Saturday morning, the number of arrests numbered over 30.