Costa Mesa’s mayor and mayor pro tem praised police Friday for the way they handled sometimes violent demonstrations that led to at least 17 arrests outside a Donald Trump presidential rally at the Orange County fairgrounds.
It was a different story in Burlingame at the California Republican Party Convention, according to Orange County Republican Party Chairman Fred Whitaker, who was at a Friday luncheon for GOP front-runner Trump.
“I was in a VIP reception and at the lunch where he spoke,” Whitaker told City News Service. “Everything went off an hour and a half late because the protesters wouldn’t let his motorcade move and then they tried to storm the motel and not let him in. Burlingame police were overwhelmed and they needed the California Highway Patrol to come in and help.”
Costa Mesa Mayor Stephen Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer praised their department and neighboring law enforcement agencies that teamed up to handle disturbances last night outside of Trump’s packed appearance at the Pacific Amphitheatre.
Police were working to track down vandals who damaged police cars and other property, Mensinger said.
“These were organized protest groups from outside of our city and we’re still identifying who those groups were,” Mensinger said. “They caused some significant damage to police vehicles and property. We’ve got photos we’re looking at over the next few days to prosecute people to the fullest extent of the law.”
Costa Mesa police “did a magnificent job in concert with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department,” Mensinger said.
“I’m very, very happy with how our police department and the Orange County sheriff and several other police departments did such a good job,” Righeimer said. “They basically got notified literally about 24 hours before the event and to have those plans in place was pretty impressive.”
Righeimer, Mensinger and Whitaker decried how some protesters have been trying to stop others from exercising their free speech rights.
“If they can make protests and violence at the rallies part of the narrative then nobody’s talking about ideas,” Whitaker said. “The left is treating the whole debate by basically shutting debate down. If Mr. Trump is the nominee, they’ll magnify what they did today.”
Trump began his speech to a capacity crowd of 8,200 at the Pacific Amphitheatre at the Orange County Fair & Event Center Thursday night by calling to the stage relatives of people who had been killed by undocumented immigrants.
Jamiel Shaw, whose high school football standout son — Jamiel Shaw II — was killed in 2008 by a gang member in the country without legal permission, told the crowd when he saw television coverage of Trump announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, “for the first time, it gave me real hope.”
Trump stuck to his usual themes, including criticizing his opponents for the Republican nomination, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He also called for laws to permit waterboarding of terrorism suspects; removing restrictions on the armed forces; closing the borders; bringing jobs back to the U.S.; and protecting the Second Amendment.
Following the speech, hundreds of protesters raged in Costa Mesa, banging on cars, throwing rocks at motorists and attacking police.
Costa Mesa police said 17 people were arrested and indicated that there may have been other arrests by other law enforcement agencies.
About 3,000 people were turned away from the packed auditorium, according to Costa Mesa police Lt. Greg Scott.
The demonstrators, most believed to be anti-Trump protesters, thronged at the intersection of Fair Drive and Fairview Drive by 8:30 p.m.
Some of those in the crowd were thought to be Trump supporters who were unable to get inside to see the candidate’s speech.
Scott said some motorists in the area “spun their car tires in a reckless manner, posing a hazard to nearby pedestrians.”
Costa Mesa police at one point called on neighboring law enforcement agencies to lend a hand.
Huntington Beach police sent 10 officers, including two on horseback, according to Huntington Beach police Officer Jennifer Marlatt. One of the horses was injured, she said.
“A rock from nowhere hit the horse in the head,” Marlatt said. “It’s a minor injury. The horse is back and the rider is OK.”
Santa Ana police initially sent four officers and a sergeant, and then sent out an additional five officers, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Costa Mesa police eventually declared the crowd an unlawful assembly and ordered everyone to disperse, Scott said.
People had been gathering at the fairgrounds since about 4 p.m. Eventually, the crowd stopped traffic around the venue as protesters marched in the streets carrying U.S and Mexican flags, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Dump the Trump” signs sprouted through the crowd as demonstrators smashed a window on a police cruiser and punctured the tires on a police SUV. Some protesters tried to overturn a police car as well, according to The Times.
Colby Nicholson, a 30-year-old Trump supporter told The Times, “These people are stupid, but Americans are stupid in general. These are all underage Mexican high schoolers who have nothing to do.”
Juan Carlos, 16, told The Times his family came from Mexico to the U.S. and he was here to support the protesters and others like him.
“Donald Trump is worthless,” Carlos told The Times. “There won’t be a United States without Mexicans.”
Costa Mesa police and about 50 Orange County sheriff’s deputies, including mounted units, worked to clear the intersection and get the crowd to disperse, according to Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Mark Stichter.
Trump left the area by 9:30 p.m. and the crowds were dispersed by 11 p.m., Scott said.
One man sustained a non-life-threatening head injury in an altercation with another man at the event, Scott said.
A rock thrown at a Costa Mesa officer hit him in his riot-gear helmet, Scott said.
The protesters damaged five police cars with one receiving significant damage, Scott said.
Here’s a list of those booked on suspicion of refusing to disperse:
- Juan M. Meneses, 23, of Santa Ana.
- Kyle G. Slajer, 19, of Whittier.
- Kal C. Maxwell, 18, of Rancho Cucamonga.
- Ethan M. Valtierra, 18, of Rancho Cucamonga.
- James P. McQuitty, 20, of Tustin.
- Cid J. Nunez, 30, of Santa Ana.
- Roberto B. Torres, 23, of Costa Mesa.
- Edgar Ramirez, 19, of Colton.
- Margaret R. Sharpe, 49, of Costa Mesa.
- Natalie J. Lincoln, 21, of Santa Ana.
- Geena S. Toscano, 20, of Ontario.
- Jeanette S. Toscano, 18, of Ontario.
- Guadalupe Verdugo, 18, of Anaheim.
- Marissa T. Sorenson, 20, of La Habra.
- Imelda Vela, 20, of Santee.
- John A. Arellanes, 19, of Garden Grove.
- And Adrian Hernandez, 18, of Colton.
— City News Service