Chaos erupted at the Donald Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Tuesday. Protesters clashed with police in riot gear throwing rocks and bottles at officers on horseback and lighting fires. Police wielded batons and used smoke to keep protesters away from the center. Officials said tear gas wasn’t used.
Much earlier in the day, thousands of Trump supporters began lining up snaking outside the city’s convention center. Inside fewer than half had seats in the bleachers flanked by an American flag on one side, the New Mexico flag on the other. The rest stood patiently for hours awaiting the candidate’s appearance.
Across the street, more than one hundred protesters shouted obsenities. Some waved Mexican flags, others held up hand-written posters. A group of Native American dancers performed a ceremony with drums, a horn, corn and other objects.
It was the GOP’s presumptive nominee’s first visit to the state, just two weeks before the primary. New Mexico has more Hispanics per capita than any other state. The candidate acknowledged that New Mexico has leaned “a little on the Democratic side,” but vowed that would change this year.
Trump’s speech hit his frequent themes: criticisms of the Democratic party – “They’re in a mess,” of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton – “I don’t know if Hillary will be allowed to run,” and of the media – “dishonest slime.” He promised as President he’d lower taxes, save Social Security and Medicare, and create jobs.
There were multiple interruptions by protesters who were escorted out. One, a young boy who appeared to elementary school age, was taunted by Trump who said, “How old is this kid? He’s still wearing diapers.” Others were mocked and told to “get out” and “go home to mommy.”
Trump criticized New Mexico’s governor, Susana Martinez, a Republican Latino who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick. He cited a rise in unemployment in the state, an increase in the number on food stamps and a decrease in the median household income. Crowds cheered when he said, “We’ve got to get your governor to do a better job. We got to get her moving.” Martinez, who hasn’t endorsed Trump, didn’t attend the speech, nor did Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, or the lone GOP member of the New Mexico Congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Pearce.
One of the biggest applause lines of the evening came when Trump reiterated his intention to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. He said Texans and New Mexicans told him, “We want that, we need that.” The audience chanted back, “Build that wall.”
Democratic candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in Santa Fe and Albuquerque on Friday. Former President Bill Clinton appeared in Espanola, New Mexico earlier Tuesday. Both were peaceful events. Hillary Clinton has not campaigned in the state this year.