ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — Protesters and city officials Wednesday blamed a small group of troublemakers for the violence that broke out at a Donald Trump rally Tuesday night, and some protesters say the ire was directed more at Albuquerque police than at Trump.
Protesters began gathering outside the Albuquerque Convention Center about three hours before the 7 p.m. event. At first confined to an area across the street, the protest was largely peaceful and included families, children, and signs ranging from the hopeful (Love Trumps Hate) to comical (Clowns for Trump) to derisive (Trump can kiss my rump!).
After the event began, several protesters were ejected from the building, and people outside left the corralled protest area and pushed past portable steel barriers outside the convention center. Encountering locked doors, most turned around and returned to the street.
Inside the building, people were told to leave by a backdoor, and that’s when things escalated.
An attendee who asked to be identified only as Sam said the original protestors were trying to keep order as a new, largely younger, crowd joined the throng.
“A guy with a megaphone was telling people to calm down, that violence was uncalled for,” Sam said.
He said Albuquerque police were not particularly aggressive, though they seemed to be the target of the late arrivers, who threw water bottles and other objects toward police lines.
“It was just a handful of people,” Sam said. “Some of us were trying to stop them, take away the bottles they were throwing, but even a few people can cause a big problem.”
Another attendee, Frank, said most of the original protesters left fairly soon after the rally, while a new group arrived, of people who “just seemed to want to cause trouble for the police.”
Some people admitted they were there to cause trouble. “I woke up all hung over and stuff,” Chelsea Rae Gray told The Associated Press. “And then I said, ‘Let’s see what kind of chaos we can get into.'” She told the AP she stole Trump T-shirts from vendors, “then I burned them.”
Late arrivers shouted, “Fuck APD!” and other anti-police slogans, Frank said. “Nobody was yelling about Trump.”
Albuquerque citizens have had a difficult relationship with their police. A Department of Justice investigation in 2014 found a “pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Protests that year after police killed James Boyd, a homeless man, ended with tear gas and violence. The two officers charged in Boyd’s killing will soon stand trial for second-degree murder.
Several police officers were injured in Tuesday night’s chaos. Members of the crowd jumped on a patrol car, shattering the windshield, and threw rocks at windows of nearby buildings as well as at mounted police.
City workers cleaned up broken glass from the streets Wednesday and life in Albuquerque returned to normal. City officials praised the police and the nonviolent protestors.
City Councilman Ken Sanchez said in a statement: “Let me be clear, the violence that erupted last night was not the result of peaceful protests by local community action groups, but rather was the result of incitement by a small but organized group of troublemakers whose sole intent was to act out. Local protestors did their best to maintain order, but when they withdrew, those with violent intent took over.”
Riot police respond to anti-Trump protests following a rally and speech by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in front of the Albuquerque Convention Center where the event was held, in Albuquerque, N.M., Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
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