Fresno police, California Highway Patrol officers and Fresno County sheriff’s deputies in riot gear lined up Friday afternoon to move anti-Trump protesters off the streets and disperse them following presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rally in Selland Arena. Two women were arrested after they refused to leave a blockade on Ventura Street after Trump’s motorcade departed.
Hundreds of protesters – some waving American and Mexican flags – gathered in clusters around Selland Arena earlier in the morning to protest the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s visit to downtown Fresno. For most of the morning, protests were largely peaceful as anti-Trump demonstrators, who stood behind a barricade, exchanged boos and other jeers with Trump supporters entering the arena. Skirmishes later broke out outside Selland as Trump spoke.
When Maria Rodriguez heard Trump was coming to Fresno, she had knew she had to be there to protest.
“He is dividing the country,” said Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico and came to the Fresno area at age 18. She lives in Clovis. “Now, I realize how much hate people have against us (Mexicans).”
Rodriguez is a substance abuse counselor and is earning a degree in social work. She said she worked her way through school starting at age 28.
“We have to stop this hate,” she said while watching the long line of Trump supporters walk into Selland Arena. She brought her son, Josiah Arreguin, 5, and encouraged him to chant, “We don’t want Donald Trump.”
Joe Solorio, a 69-year-old Mexican American veteran from Fresno, held photos of himself in the Army and his brother, who won several Purple Hearts while serving in the Korean War. But he said Trump would consider him and his brother “anchor babies.”
The term anchor baby refers to a child born to a noncitizen in a country that has birthright citizenship.
“He wants to send us back? What military was he in – Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts? Is that fair?” Solorio said. “He says Mexicans will come and take your jobs. How many people want to go pick peaches, plums and nectarines?”
Trump’s departure from Selland arena was briefly delayed as protesters milled outside the M Street exit to the arena. Police rushed to the area when it was reported that bottles were being thrown. A CHP tactical team joined Fresno police, and officers dressed in riot gear and carrying batons pushed demonstrators back. The arena door flew open, and CHP cars and SUVs carrying the Trump entourage drove the wrong way up M, ramming a police barricade as the vehicles sped back to Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
The trouble at M and Ventura was preceded by a skirmish between Trump supporters and protesters at a parking garage on Inyo Street, east of Selland. There, some protesters on the higher levels of the multistory garage reportedly rained down bottles on people leaving the Trump speech.
Trump supporters quietly and quickly left the arena, but tensions among demonstrators were high. Some protesters followed Trump supporters from the arena shouting at them. Others marched from M Street to the parking garage and got into a tussle with police officers. As demonstrators chanted near the ground level of the garage, police Chief Jerry Dyer, Deputy Chief Pat Farmer and several sergeants moved through the crowd, dispersing it.
Dyer and his command staff then returned to the trouble spot at M and Ventura to deal with tensions there. As the tactical teams assembled to disperse the crowds on Ventura, there were several running fights between Trump backers and his opponents, although Dyer said some of the protesters were also anti-police.
As the throngs of protesters spilled onto Ventura Street, a police helicopter warned that the gathering was an “unlawful assembly.” At one point, Dyer was seen squatting in front of a group of protesters who were sitting in the street, urging them to leave and telling them they risked arrest if they didn’t.
Public safety officers, in riot gear, formed a skirmish line. A sergeant warned protesters that the officers would start walking. Anyone in the way would be arrested.
Two women who refused to move, were handcuffed with zip ties and led away, one cursing loudly at officers.
One of the women was cited and released, while the other was booked into Fresno County Jail on suspicion of unlawful assembly.
After Ventura was cleared, Dyer said he was proud of his officers and the way they handled the tense confrontation.
“They did a great job, held their positions. No officers got hurt, no citizens got hurt and there was no property damage.”
Inside Selland, Trump paused several times during his speech to direct authorities to remove anyone yelling loudly.
Those thrown out were brought to Trump’s attention by supporters in the crowd. Many in the crowd would stand up, shine cellphone flashlights, point or yell things like “this one.”
Police and Secret Service responded to several groups without Trump’s direction and removed several groups of people.
One man was standing outside the media area holding a small camera when a Secret Service agent approached him.
“It’s time to go, buddy,” the agent said.
“Why? I’m not doing anything,” the man replied.
“You’re going to get locked up,” the agent said, grabbing the man’s arm.
The man pulled away from the agent, and two Fresno police officers approached them.
“It’s time to go,” the agent repeated in a louder voice.
The man nodded and began to move with the agent and two officers toward the door. The agent released his arm. The man did not appear to be hurt.
Rory Appleton, Jim Guy, BoNhia Lee and Mackenzie Mays contributed to this report.