ANAHEIM, Calif. (Reuters) - Some 100 people staged a boisterous but largely peaceful demonstration outside a Southern California rally by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, at times taunting his supporters before police moved in and arrested eight people.
The activists carried signs such as “Stop Nazi Trump” and “Dump Trump,” and beat a pinata made to resemble the presumptive Republican nominee outside a convention center in Anaheim, just a few blocks from Disneyland, before they were driven from the scene by police on horseback.
A spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department said seven adults and one minor were arrested on charges ranging from selling T-shirts without a permit to unlawful assembly.
The arrests came one day after a Trump event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, erupted into chaos after hundreds of protesters tried to swarm the convention center where Trump spoke, knocking down barricades, waving Mexican flags and hurling rocks and bottles at police officers in riot gear. Police responded with smoke bombs and pepper spray.
Albuquerque police said they made arrests both outside and inside the rally, where demonstrators continually interrupted Trump’s speech. The police department’s Twitter feed said officers were treated for injuries caused by thrown rocks.
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump called the protesters in Albuquerque “thugs who were flying the Mexican flag.”
“The rally inside was big and beautiful, but outside, criminals!” he said.
In Anaheim, police warned in advance that they would take “swift” action if protests got out of hand, and the roughly 150 officers and sheriffs deputies on hand may have outnumbered the protesters.
Inside, Trump was interrupted by hecklers as he spoke, including one man who waved a Mexican flag.
“Do not hurt him,” Trump said as a man was led out of the arena. “I say that for the television cameras. Even though he is a bad person.”
Many of those who protested outside the arena expressed anger over Trump’s views on immigration, at one point ripping apart a piñata resembling the candidate and spearing the paper-mache head on top of a flagpole with a large Mexican flag.
Police largely stood by watching the demonstration, which became tense at times when anti-Trump protesters surrounded smaller groups of his supporters. At one point a brief shoving match broke out.
As Trump’s campaign event neared its conclusion inside, outside a police helicopter circled overhead, ordering the throng to disperse or face arrest. Officers on horseback then drove the crowd from the scene, where several people were taken into custody for failing to disperse.
Trump’s appearances in the U.S. West in areas with significant Hispanic populations have drawn large protests in response to his remarks that Mexico is sending criminals and rapists to the United States, made when he launched his campaign last year.
Trump’s problems with Latino voters could dampen his Nov. 8 election hopes. A poll by the political research group Latino Decisions found 87 percent of registered Hispanic voters view Trump unfavorably. States like Nevada and New Mexico have growing Hispanic populations that could tip the election.
Trump’s trip west came ahead of the California and New Mexico nominating contests on June 7. He also plans to hold several large fundraising events in California. It is the first high-dollar fundraising event the New York real estate mogul has held after largely self-funding his primary campaign.
Mike McGetrick, one of two people carrying “Latinos for Trump” signs at the Anaheim rally, said he is part of a group called America First Latinos, whose website describes its members as believing in “the rule of law, hard work and the American Dream.” He said his neighborhood in nearby Orange is “being overrun” by undocumented immigrants.
“There are so many of them, and they’re everywhere,” said McGetrick, 62, a retired city worker. “I can tell an illegal from a regular person just like that.”
Trump supporters have been hopeful that his likely opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, will be dogged by her own problems to offset his difficulty with some populations. On Wednesday, Clinton faced renewed criticism about her use of a private email server for government business while secretary of state after a report by the State Department’s inspector general said she had violated agency policies.
Trump only briefly addressed the report in his appearance in Anaheim.
“Not good,” he said. “Inspector general’s report, not good.”
Reporting by Megan Cassella, Suzannah Gonzales, Emily Stephenson, Amy Tennery, Dan Whitcomb and Steve Gorman; Writing by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bill Trott and Leslie Adler