Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump drew roughly 2,000 protesters to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Burlingame near San Francisco airport Friday, where he gave the keynote address at around noon during the California Republican Party Convention.
Bay Area residents opposing the candidate's platforms--especially his promise to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall between the United States and Mexico, if elected--used their bodies to blockade the street in front of hotel entrances.
Cars were prevented from entering and leaving the area. A man affiliated with a nearby office building said clients were unable to access their businesses. Trump himself reportedly had to jump a barricade to enter the convention and make his speech.
The purpose of the barricades was "to try and prevent Donald Trump from speaking today," said San Francisco resident Scott Parkin, who was one of the protesters.
Deirdre Smith, member of Bay Area activist group BlackOUT Collective, said her organization wanted to use the protest as a platform for countering what she described as hate rhetoric from Trump and his supporters.
She said the Collective, which works with Oakland's Black Lives Matter group, also wanted to send a message to tech companies that "giving a platform to hate speech is wrong." She mentioned that on Thursday, activist groups delivered petitions to Mountain View-based Google, which is sponsoring the Republican National Convention, asking the company to divest from the event.
Tech employees seemed few and far between at the protest happening in their backyard Friday. James, who declined to state his last name because he didn't want his politics affiliated with his workplace, said he and five colleagues from their 20-person biotech company were able to attend the protest because it was so close to their office.
"I think tech people are mostly working and not having the freedom to come to these things," he said, adding that he and his colleagues didn't want "the hate of someone like Trump running the country."
Smith remarked, "I think we did not expect tech to show up and certainly tech isn't here." She said she believed tech companies and workers could do more to counter issues of gentrification, which have resulted in parts of the Bay Area that were previously racially and ethnically diverse becoming more homogenous and white. She said she views such gentrification as "on the same side" as Trump's proposed policies when it comes to negatively impacting communities of immigrants and people of color.
At various points, the protesters acted aggressively. Fights reportedly broke out. An American flag was burned. A Trump supporter was hit with eggs. A man wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat was backed by protesters against a fence. He jumped the fence, rolling across the grass before picking himself up and walking into the hotel parking lot.
Scene of a flag burning outside the Hyatt after Trump's speech today. pic.twitter.com/JSZYUmmU6s-; Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) April 29, 2016
starting to see interactions between trump supporters and protesters, including this guy who was hit with an egg pic.twitter.com/EnLC3tzd1P-; Caroline O'Donovan (@ceodonovan) April 29, 2016
guy in trump hat gets cornered by trump protesters. He ends up jumping fence entering Hyatt parking lot pic.twitter.com/tYNEhEb0E7-; Tess Townsend (@Tess_Townsend) April 29, 2016
But the protests were mild in comparison to the ones that took place in Orange County the night before, where protesters damaged police vehicles.
Inside the convention, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's pro-immigration reform organization FWD.us had set up a table. The organization's aim was "to connect with pro-immigration reform Republicans while also taking the time to talk with convention goers on the importance of fixing our broken immigration system," FWD.us spokesman Michael Rekola told Inc. in an email.
"Like most Republican voters across the country, a majority of the people we talked to today are in favor of creating a pathway to citizenship rather than endorsing the absurd and awful policies of mass deportation that Trump and (Republican presidential hopeful Ted) Cruz continue to promote," he said.
Exiting the protest at around 2 p.m. after Trump's speech ended, conference attendee Max, wearing a red Make America Great Again hat said he had not personally interacted with protesters but "someone actually just said 'fuck you, you piece of shit,' so I guess they're not too friendly to these kinds of things."
Max, from San Mateo, declined to state his last name saying he was the CEO of an area fintech company and did not want his politics associated with his business.