LOS ANGELES (CN) – For the first time since taking office, President Donald Trump visited California, inspecting border wall prototypes in San Diego and attending a high-priced fundraiser in Beverly Park. His visit was met with public protests across Los Angeles and sharp critique from state leaders.
On a cloudy, wet evening, around 500 anti-Trump protesters rallied at Beverly Gardens Park, blocks away from a mansion Trump owns. Protesters held signs denouncing Trump’s policies and calling him “treasonous.”
“We want to show him he can’t just waltz through Los Angeles and sneak into his swanky fundraiser,” Maggie Rheinstein, a Santa Monica resident, said. “[Trump] needs to know we object.”
Rheinstein said Trump is putting “cities, the nation and our planet in danger” with his recent decisions to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords, and through his provocations of war with North Korea.
“California is fighting [Trump] on immigration, on climate change and other issues,” she said. “California means resistance.”
Andrew Goetze, a resident of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, said Trump has normalized lying and condemnation of news outlets and their reporters.
The country is more polarized than ever,” Goetze said. “People aren’t talking across the political spectrum anymore.”
For Goetze, it was his first time ever participating in a protest against a sitting president.
“We want [Trump] to feel unwelcome in California,” Goetze said.
Shankar Singam, vice president of the think tank California Freedom Coalition, said he was angry Trump would come to a state he has derided and whose policies set trends for the nation.
“California is proof that progressive policies work,” Singam said.
Sarita Payne said she couldn’t name a policy issue she didn’t clash with Trump over. She said she attended the rally to represent people from “shithole countries” and other minority groups Trump has angered through his public comments.
“We are not going to embrace his divisive politics,” Payne said. “He is supposed to represent the political moral compass and he has shown no morals.”
A handful of Trump supporters dotted the crowd, occasionally being confronted by protesters.
Ingrid Mueller held a “Latinos For Trump” sign, attracting a few supportive honks from passing cars. She passed out business cards displaying a picture of her standing with Trump on stage at a rally.
“I’m excited to have him in my state,” said Mueller, who is from San Diego. “I love that he is for law and order.”
Mueller, who said her immigrant parents came from the state of Nayarit in Mexico, said she supports Trump’s call for increased deportation of immigrants in the state.
“I know families who have lost children to killers who turned out to be immigrants,” she said. “We can’t just let anyone in. Those who’ve been deported are all criminals.”
The rally resembled a festival atmosphere. A band played Latin American cumbias from an open flatbed truck and food vendors sold bacon-wrapped hotdogs as the crowd cheered. Almost every passing car along Santa Monica Blvd honked in support of protesters’ signs.
Traffic was at a standstill in many parts of Los Angeles as Trump’s motorcade made its way from Santa Monica Airport to the Beverly Park fundraiser.
The Westside, where the fundraiser was held, is home to many progressive celebrities and Democratic donors. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won 72 percent of votes in Los Angeles County. In one Westside neighborhood precinct, 54 percent of votes went to Trump, according to elections data.
Trump’s fundraiser was held at the Beverly Park home of Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman Edward Glazer.
Glazer is president of his family’s real estate company and owner of the Manchester United football club in England. In 2016, he donated $98,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign and $250,000 to his inauguration fund, according to campaign contribution records.
Trump flew into Miramar Marine Corp Air Station in San Diego Tuesday morning, visiting prototypes of proposed projects along the border wall. After his inspection of the wall, a core element of his immigration policy, he called the wall the country’s “first line of defense.”
Early Tuesday, the White House released a statement outlining its views on sanctuary policies, saying the refusal to cooperate with immigration enforcement officials is “endangering both communities and law enforcement” by allowing “dangerous criminal aliens to be released.”
In San Diego, Trump said the nation is “at risk” under sanctuary policies signed into law in California.
“[Sanctuary policies] are the best friend of the criminal,” Trump said. “The criminals take refuge in these sanctuary cities, and it’s very dangerous for our police and enforcement folks.”
California, the sixth largest economy in the world, is home to an estimated 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center.
The Justice Department issued a lawsuit against California last week over the state’s so-called “sanctuary state” legislation. Trump recently called the mayor of Oakland a “disgrace” for warning immigrants before federal immigration agents initiated raids in the city.
The White House statement said these warnings “allow criminals to prepare themselves.”
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Trump’s inspection of the border wall was a veiled attempt at distracting the nation from the multiple investigations he finds himself in.
“This visit is a political stunt to rally his base around a stupid boondoggle,” De Leon said.
In a statement released Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown said the state was “focusing on bridges, not walls.” In his statement, Brown also invited Trump to tour the Central Valley and visit construction sites of bridges that will support the proposed high-speed rail line.
“Prosperity is not built on isolation,” Brown said. “California thrives because we welcome immigrants and innovators from across the globe.”