Protests risk help­ing Trump

SundayXtra - - U.S. POLITICS - By Ni­cholas Ric­cardi

FOUN­TAIN HILLS, Ariz. — David Rau wasn’t sure about Don­ald Trump. So the land­scape con­trac­tor strolled over to the main park in this Phoenix sub­urb to watch one of the busi­ness­man’s re­cent ral­lies and de­cide for him­self.

Demon­stra­tors pulled their cars across an ac­cess road to block peo­ple driv­ing to the event. Dozens marched to the park and stood by Rau, chant­ing “Stop the hate!” as he tried to lis­ten. He left a Trump con­vert. “I’ve got the right to lis­ten to some­body speak, don’t I?” Rau asked.

Trump’s rise in the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial con­test has sparked in­creas­ingly con­fronta­tional protests, mo­bi­lized his op­po­nents and drawn scrutiny of the Repub­li­can front-run­ner’s rhetoric and the some­times rough way his cam­paign han­dles dis­sent. But as demon­stra­tors es­ca­late their tac­tics, they also risk help­ing Trump, es­pe­cially among Repub­li­can vot­ers his ri­vals are fu­ri­ously try­ing to per­suade to re­ject the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man.

“I en­cour­age peo­ple to speak out against Trump in a force­ful but re­spect­ful man­ner be­cause some of these protests are only serv­ing to help him,” said Tim Miller, a spokesman for a Repub­li­can group try­ing to stop Trump. “He con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate the news, he can play the ‘us vs. them’ card when lib­er­als dis­rupt his events, and that serves as a ral­ly­ing point for his can­di­dacy.”

Even Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, run­ning for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, has been trou­bled by pro­test­ers’ tac­tics, as well as by Trump’s re­sponse.

“In Amer­ica, peo­ple have a right to hold ral­lies,” San­ders told MSNBC. “It is ab­so­lutely ap­pro­pri­ate for thou­sands of peo­ple to protest at a Trump rally, but I am not a great fan of dis­rupt­ing ral­lies.”

Trump en­gages the demon­stra­tors vig­or­ously, mock­ing them, call­ing them bad peo­ple and some­times feed­ing the anger of his sup­port­ers in the crowd.

The Phoenix demon­stra­tion fol­lowed one in Chicago the prior week­end, when hun­dreds of Trump foes flooded into the Chicago lo­ca­tion of one of his ral­lies, and Trump can­celled the event and one in Ohio the fol­low­ing day, cit­ing se­cu­rity con­cerns. That in­fu­ri­ated Trump back­ers, who blamed the demon­stra­tors.

“To me, it’s dis­gust­ing and in­sult­ing,” said Clau­dia Young, an Ar­gen­tini­an­born U.S. cit­i­zen in Mun­cie, Ind., who said she and her hus­band had ar­rived at the Day­ton, Ohio, rally site at 6:30 a.m. af­ter a 90-minute drive. “We’re sup­posed to have free­dom of speech in this coun­try, but the peo­ple who came to see Trump couldn’t lis­ten to what they wanted to hear.”

In Ari­zona, ac­tivists gath­ered about five kilo­me­tres from the site of the Trump rally, along one of two roads that wind through the moun­tains north of Phoenix into cen­tral Foun­tain Hills. The pro­test­ers — mainly a coali­tion of lo­cal im­mi­grant rights groups who have a long his­tory of demon­stra­tions against Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio, who was speak­ing at the rally — then ma­noeu­vred their cars across the in­ter­sec­tion. Three were ar­rested, and many Trump sup­port­ers had to walk to the rally or missed it.

Car­los Gar­cia of Puente, one of the im­mi­grant rights groups, said demon­stra­tors handed out wa­ter bot­tles to Trump sup­port­ers and did not want to an­tag­o­nize them.

“I hope peo­ple see be­yond their twohour in­con­ve­nience,” he said.

JAMES BROOKS / JUNEAU EM­PIRE

Court­ney Skinner, 5, holds up a San­ders sign on fa­ther Tom Skinner’s shoul­ders in Juneau, Alaska.

CHRISTO­PHER SMITH / KANSAS CITY STAR FILES

A pro­tester yells at police out­side a Don­ald Trump rally in Kansas City this month.

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