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Friday, April 29, 2016

Making the Bay Area Hate Again: Donald J. Trump's Bizarre Visit to Burlingame

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 5:08 PM

click to enlarge STEVE RHODES/SF WEEKLY
  • Steve Rhodes/SF Weekly
Donald J. Trump — himself, his presence, his aura — does not fill a room.

Whether it was the odd route he took to reach the California state Republican convention on Friday — his motorcade's approach to a Hyatt near the San Francisco International Airport blocked by protesters, he exited his motorcade and hopped a median on the US-101 freeway to enter the business traveler's hotel via a back entrance, a process he later compared to "crossing the border" — or the odd route he is traveling to win the Republican nomination, working and making deals with the same "party elites" insiders he's been railing against for almost a year, Trump himself put on a subdued performance during his brief time in the Bay Area on Friday.

But his supporters do. They fill arenas and hotel conference rooms and convention halls. They were the easiest to spot on Friday: sporting the same air of detached and defiant triumph as their man, Trump supporters are the ones who look the most like they're having a party. 

And his haters do. Where Trump appears, they follow, as happened Friday. Protesters infiltrated the Hyatt to shout and unfurl banners, and hundreds more squared off with police outside, turning the Hyatt and the convention into a fortified compound in hostile territory. 

click to enlarge Protesters infiltrate the Hyatt to unfurl a banner. - STEVE RHODES
  • Steve Rhodes
  • Protesters infiltrate the Hyatt to unfurl a banner.

Trump's lunchtime audience in the Hyatt's banquet hall was a fraction of the 31,000 people he drew in Costa Mesa on Thursday night. As state delegates munched on salad, he was also a fraction as outrageous and bombastic as his reputation has been on this campaign trail.

After an introduction that relied on a call-and-response of his catchphrase from The Apprentice — "You're fired!" the delegates dutifully shouted out — he spent about half an hour presenting a disjointed narrative of his victories, the people he beat to get there, and the next person he plans to beat, before exiting the Hyatt the way he came in.

He was sure get his digs in — declaring the process he's engaged in "a rigged system, a horrible, horrible system," making fun of how Ohio Gov. John Kasich eats, calling Texas Sen. Ted Cruz childish a few minutes before declaring him "a wonderful guy" — but offered mostly just a rambling narrative of the journey thus far.

In between frequent asides, sometimes addressed to people in the room, sometimes addressed to himself, playing characters in an ongoing dialogue — "By the way, I'm killing everybody in Oh-re-gone!" — he rattled off the polls he's winning, the primaries he's won, and the contenders he's vanquished.

He was often not exact — Kasich is "one for 48. Or one for 42. Whatever, it doesn't matter. I guess it's 42 because you have to include the islands' — and often inconsistent.

After calling Kasich a disgusting eater and Cruz a child, he called for "unity in our party." Then, a second later: "Now, with that being said, can I win without it? I think I can."

A few minutes later: "Folks, I'm a conservative. But who cares? At this point we've got to straighten out the country," he said. "I mean look, I am a conservative. I'm conservative on a lot of things. I'm very conservative on trade."

"The truth is," he said, winding up, "We're going to win in a way that nobody's seen before. We're gonna be so strong, so smart... I love people who win. We don't win anymore. The Republican party, in the presidential sense, doesn't win anymore."

"Bit I'm different. I'm gonna win... and crooked Hillary?" he said to applause, hitting his stride, "she'll go down easier than any of the people I just beat! You have no idea. Thank you," he said, exiting behind the same cordoned-off curtain through which he appeared, to hearty applause. 

All of this was kindergarten compared to the chaos outside.

Kasich will speak at the same Hyatt later tonight, and Cruz is scheduled to appear tomorrow. They will struggle to compete for a fraction of the same attention.

Within minutes of Trump wrapping up, some convention-goers were already exiting, dragging rolling suitcases past the barricades where riot-gear-clad cops were squared off against protesters (which some GOP-ers, exiting the hotel to snap photos on smartphones, took in as a rarely-seen novelty attraction).

The demonstrators were a cross-section of Bay Area agitation — black bloc-types with bandannas, some of whom burned an American flag; Latino youth and organizers waving Mexican flags; area high school kids in tie-dye. Flag-burners traded insults, curses, and opinions on colonialism and gun control with some blue-collar Trump supporters in Ben Davis shirts and work boots, while others continued to shout at the police blocking all entrances to the hotel.

Though they will be gone by the time Kasich takes the stage, they hung around after Trump's speech, shouting and marching for a few hours — by which time the candidate himself had long left the premises, on his way to cause another scene somewhere else.
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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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