Dozens arrested during clashes at Donald Trump rally

Stones thown in skirmishes between Trump supporters and opponents

The Republican Presumptive Presidential Nominee told his supporters at a campaign rally in San Diego, California, on Friday (May 27) that the leadership in America is "especially at the top is grossly incompetent". Video: Reuters


Supporters and opponents of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have clashed in the city of San Diego in California during one of the largest counter-protests organised against him.

Police declared a gathering outside the city’s convention centre unlawful and made 35 arrests, as stones and water bottles were thrown. Demonstrators opposed to his controversy-ridden White House bid marched and chanted, carrying signs criticizing his rhetoric against illegal immigration.

Waving US and Mexican flags, more than 1,000 people turned out for anti-trump rallies in San Diego, a city on the US-Mexico border whose San Ysidro port of entry sees nearly 300,000 people a day cross legally between the countries. Mr Trump was in the city to hold a rally ahead of the June 7th California primary.

He has pledged to build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants. San Diego police said on Twitter that 35 arrests were made during the protest. No property damage or injuries were reported, police said.

The skirmishes began as the convention centre emptied following Mr Trump’s rally, and supporters and opponents met in the streets, jeering and heckling each other.

Dozens of police officers in riot gear had been deployed to separate them. Some protesters scaled a wall of the centre to throw water bottles at police.

One man was pulled off the wall and arrested as others were surrounded by fellow protesters and backed away from the confrontation.

After ordering the crowds to disperse, police then moved them away from the city’s Gaslamp Quarter.

San Diego is considered a bi-national city by many who live and work on opposite sides of the border, and about a third of the city’s population is Latino.

After the convention centre emptied, clusters of Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators began to mix in the streets, many exchanging shouted epithets and some throwing water bottles at one another.

Police in riot gear declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and ordered the crowd to disperse, herding the crowd out of the city’s hotel and restaurant-filled Gaslamp Quarter.

“Fantastic job on handling the thugs who tried to disrupt our very peaceful and well attended rally,” Mr Trump tweeted to police afterwards.

Mr Trump has weathered months of blowback from all ends of the political spectrum for his immigration policy, which calls for the building of a wall along the US-Mexico border and deporting the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants who reside in the United States.

Critics have said his plan is needlessly cruel and impossible to implement. At Mr Trump’s campaign stops, attendees often chant “build the wall.”

While Mr Trump is running unopposed in the June 7th California Republican primary, his stance on border control and deportation seems unlikely to resonate with the electorate at large in a state where political fallout from a Republican-backed crackdown on illegal immigrants 20 years ago cost the party dearly.

Friday was not the first time Mr Trump has been greeted by civil unrest in California, which is home to the largest Latino population in the country. Late last month, a visit to the California Republican convention set off days of protests in the area, leading to several arrests.

Shortly before taking the stage in San Diego, Mr Trump issued a statement ruling out a one-on-one debate with second-place Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, who was also in California, killing off a potentially high-ratings television spectacle.

The suggested debate, an idea first raised during a talk show appearance by the New York billionaire, would have sidelined likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but given Mr Sanders a huge platform ahead of California Democratic primary.

A day after saying he would welcome a Mr Sanders debate, Mr Trump called the idea “inappropriate,” declaring that he should only face the Democrats’ final choice.

“I will wait to debate the first-place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton,” Mr Trump said in a statement.