If the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton rallies in the heart of Silicon Valley felt more like Burning Man and a Junior League convention respectively, Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rally in downtown San Jose Thursday felt more like a violent free for-all.
What happened outside the San Jose Convention Center was reminiscent of the "Trump effect" sweeping the country right now: a spectacle where people show up to witness the best and worst of what America has to offer.
Protesters thronged the street in front of the South Hall annex of the San Jose Convention Center where Trump addressed a crowd of several thousand people, clashing with police in riot gear to make a point about an issue close to their heart: immigration — a topic so divisive that it continues to invoke extreme responses from voters thanks to Trump’s strong rhetoric and controversial statements about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and getting Mexico to pay for it.[[381809761, C]]
“No hate in the 408,” a small group peacefully chanted on a side-street, referring to the San Jose area code, while others were more vociferous in their demands, yelling, “F_____ Trump, F_____ Trump" repeatedly.
“This is what hate leads to,” a poster declared, boldly displaying photographs from slavery, Japanese internment camps and Apartheid. A kaleidoscope of Mexican flags flew high in the air, as young people, mostly first-generation Americans chanted that Trump was not wanted in San Jose.
On street corners, small groups of people debated illegal immigration, and at one point, a war of words erupted on a busy intersection between two millennials, as they tried to convince each other of the pros and cons of having undocumented workers come over to America from Mexico.
“Sweetheart, sweetheart, Mexico is only a few hundred miles away, it’s not that far, people are always going to be coming here,” a young man in a kepi cap told a young woman wearing a camo cap with an American flag on it.
“We need to control the people coming in,” she replied.
“You think the walls are going to do that?” the man asked. “You know what happens to walls? They come down.”
“Are you going to go out and pick strawberries?” he asked her. “Do you eat salad? Do you know who puts the salad on your plate?”
“You don’t like immigrants? Maybe you should go back to Europe,” he continued, to which the woman responded: “I’m from the United States, I’m from Tracy, California."
The wall theme repeated itself inside the Convention Center, where Trump held court.[[381764371, C]]
Toward the end of his roughly hour-long speech, Trump declared: "We're going to bring people into this country but we're going to bring them in legally." To which the crowd, as if on cue, burst into a chant: "Build the wall! Build the wall!"
“We’re going to build that wall, don’t even think about it,” Trump told his ardent admirers.
“And who’s going to pay for the wall?” he asked.
“Mexico,” the crowd yelled, to which Trump said: “100 percent right.”
Outside, in the sweltering heat, punches were thrown, a few arrests were made, a San Jose police officer was injured, and a woman got egged by protesters, a moment that briefly started trending on Twitter.
The scene was reminiscent of the chaos that broke out outside the Hyatt Burlingame a little over a month ago when hundreds of protesters forced Trump to climb over a highway median so that he could enter the hotel and give a speech to his supporters at the GOP convention.
The protests prompted San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo to release a statement condoning the protests.
"It’s a sad statement about our political discourse that Mr. Trump has focused on stirring antagonism instead of offering real solutions to our nation's challenges," Liccardo said.
But Trump's supporters had nothing but positive things to say about their idol.
“He’s amazing,” gushed a group of four freshmen from Santa Clara University. “America’s really broken right now and I really cannot consciously elect Hillary Clinton who has the email scandal and the Benghazi scandal, and is taking money from the Middle East and is going to answer to them, and I’m not going to take that,” one of them said.
“Build the wall,” he added. “Legal immigration, not illegal, I want to make it clear that Donald Trump is all for legal immigration.”
“Trump’s awesome,” said Jason, who’s born and brought up in San Jose. “He’s going to bring jobs back … He’s going to put a 35 percent tax on all the businesses that are American owned that are going overseas, he’s going to fix everything that’s going on…He’s going to make sure that Hillary goes to prison because she deserves it, she needs prison.”
Why the Trump campaign managers picked a time for a rally in the Bay Area which coincided with the region’s hottest sports team competing in the NBA finals was a fact even Trump couldn’t wrap his head around. “I was wondering if anybody would come since San Francisco is playing the game tonight,” he said to loud cheers from the crowd even though he got the name of the Golden State Warriors — who play out of Oakland — wrong. Trump has called Oakland one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
He launched into his usual tirade on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, accusing Sanders of rigging the system, and calling Clinton “pathetic” for attacking his foreign policy as childish and dangerous.
At least one couple, Helen and David Nguyen, who immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam many years ago, decided it was a good idea to leave immediately after Trump’s speech ended.
“Yes, we are voting for Trump,” Helen Nguyen, a petite woman who has lived in San Jose forever, said smiling. “He is very strong, and he has ideas … We are Americans, and we really like him.”[[381796211, C]]