BURLINGAME, Calif. — A little over a month before California’s pivotal Republican presidential primary, Donald Trump began his official wooing of party delegates Friday, headlining a kickoff lunch at the state’s annual GOP convention.
But Trump’s appearance was nearly derailed by massive protests outside the Hyatt Regency hotel, where the convention is being held. More than a thousand protesters blocked surrounding streets, and at one point, knocked down police barricades as they attempted to storm the building before Trump’s speech.
The protests also blocked the candidate’s motorcade route, forcing him and his Secret Service detail to abandon their vehicles on a nearby highway, jump a barricade wall and cross a ditch to get to the hotel’s back entrance —movements that were captured by television news helicopters.
“That was not the easiest entrance I’ve ever made,” Trump said when he finally took the stage nearly an hour late. “We went under a fence and through a fence. … It felt like I was crossing the border actually.”
Trump joked about wiping dirt and mud off his suit as he prepared to meet a roomful of nearly 600 California Republicans — including many who will be on the June 7 GOP primary ballot as delegates to the national party convention in July. “You guys got to come in through the lobby,” he said. “I come in under a fence.”
Donald Trump waves to supporters after a speech at the California Republican Convention on April 29 in Burlingame, Calif. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)
The speech came just hours after massive protests erupted outside a Trump rally Thursday night in Costa Mesa in southern California, where at least 20 people were arrested and a police car was smashed by anti-Trump demonstrators.
On Friday, Trump downplayed the violence, pointing out there had been no protesters inside the Costa Mesa event, which attracted at least 8,500 people.
Addressing the party faithful here, Trump took yet another victory lap for his spate of recent wins and mocked his rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for sticking in the race even though, he said, they have “no path to victory.” Kasich, he said, was acting like a “spoiled child” for staying in, even though he still had fewer delegates than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out last month.
And, in what sounded like a greatest hits of Trump insults, the real estate mogul also went after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who suggested in a television interview Thursday that he could never back Trump, his former GOP rival.
“Like I care,” Trump said in response, describing Bush’s appearance on CNN as “low energy, very low energy.”
Not to be harsh, Trump added, he didn’t really need the support of any of his GOP rivals because “it’s not going to have any impact on whether or not I beat Hillary Clinton.” But, Trump insisted, “the rest of the party has to come together.”
“There has to be unity in our party,” Trump said. “We have to get together as a party, because it’s a tougher road for a Republican than a Democrat.”
While he predicted the Republican race would “come to an end very soon,” Trump asked supporters to campaign here for him ahead of the state’s GOP primary, where polls show him leading Cruz by more than 20 points. “The world is watching,” he said.
As he exited the stage, Trump joked that he’d have to climb under a fence again to escape the protesters who continued to surround the building. Nodding to the Secret Service agents who stood guard around the stage, Trump said, “You have no idea the route they have planned for me.”