Anti-Trump movement escalates with large protests in Arizona, NYC

Caitlin Dickson

Donald Trump supporters point and scream at an anti-Trump demonstrator during a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Ariz., March 19, 2016. (Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

For months, anti-Trump protesters have been a constant fixture at the Republican presidential frontrunner’s campaign rallies. Often they are individuals or small groups that are loudly — and at times forcibly — ejected as soon as they’re identified as “subversives.”

More recently, however, Trump’s events have started to draw protesters by the hundreds and even thousands. So many showed up to a rally in Chicago ahead of the Illinois primary last week that Trump was forced to back out — despite assurances from the Chicago police that they had the situation under control. Perhaps bolstered by Chicago, the anti-Trump protests have continued to escalate as Marco Rubio’s departure from the race seems only to have helped pave Trump’s path to the Republican nomination.

On Friday, Trump supporters were met by hundreds of protesters chanting slogans like “Dump Trump” outside a rally in Salt Lake City. The next day, demonstrators shut down a highway leading to the Phoenix suburb where the businessman was slated to speak at a rally alongside controversial local Sheriff Joe Arpaio — one of multiple campaign events on the candidate’s schedule in Arizona. Trump, who launched his candidacy with vicious attacks against Mexican immigrants and big promises to build a “huge” wall between the U.S. and Mexico, is currently leading the polls in the border state, which will hold its Democratic and Republican primary elections on Tuesday.

SLIDESHOW: Anti-Trump protests across the country >>>

At the same time, thousands gathered outside Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan to protest the acerbic real estate mogul-turned-politician in his hometown. Though New Yorkers won’t cast their primary votes until April 19, more than 5,000 people RSVP’d to a Facebook invitation for Saturday’s New York protest, which stated that “Trump’s policies threaten many of us in the Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, Muslim, and other communities. These policies and type of speech has no place in this country, and certainly does not have a place in the city that Trump grew his empire in — a city known as a melting pot and home for many of the same people Trump continues to wage war on.”

In addition to the highway demonstration and protests in New York City, things appeared to turn ugly at a campaign event in Tucson. A video posted to social media on Saturday night purported to show Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and another man grabbing the collar of an anti-Trump protester.

Lewandowski had been under fire after allegedly getting overly physical with former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. Fields, who has since resigned from the news outlet, has filed suit against Lewandowski while Trump’s campaign denies the claim.

The anti-Trump movement is picking up speed beyond the picket lines as well. No sooner had Rubio announced he was dropping out of the race following his devastating loss in Florida last week than Ted Cruz began actively courting his former rival’s supporters by positioning himself as the “the one candidate who can beat Donald Trump.”

While it’s unclear how many Rubio backers are actually running into Cruz’s “open arms,” the tea party Texan’s pitch appears to be working on some of the establishment Republicans, from whom Cruz distanced himself in order to bolster his political career. Former presidential candidate, and newly outspoken Trump opponent Mitt Romney announced this week that he plans to vote for Cruz in Utah’s caucuses Tuesday. Even Lindsey Graham, one of Cruz’s most vocal enemies in the Senate, has reluctantly thrown his support behind Cruz in a desperate effort to stop Trump.

As far as Trump’s concerned, this is a fool’s errand. Not just undeterred but apparently emboldened by his critics, Trump continues to plow through the primaries with supporters following his lead.