A divided Anaheim City Council voted late Tuesday to take no action on a resolution to formally denounce Donald J. Trump, capping a heated nearly four-hour debate that followed clashes outside City Hall between supporters and opponents of the Republican presidential candidate.
Before the meeting began, the conflict turned violent as demonstrators on either side hurled obscenities at each other and fired pepper spray, witnesses said. An ambulance arrived to provide care for at least two young girls and a woman who were stung by pepper spray. Television news video of the clash appeared to show a pro-Trump demonstrator lunging with a Taser at an opponent.
The rancor could prove to be an opening skirmish as the Republican presidential campaign moves to California ahead of the June 7 primary. Several polls show Trump leading his rivals in the state. But the billionaire has also faced criticism and protests by activists in California over his inflammatory comments about people who are in the U.S. illegally.
The billionaire is scheduled to hold a rally in Costa Mesa on Thursday night at the Pacific Ampitheatre at the Orange County Fair & Event Center, according to Trump's campaign website. The rally is set for 7 p.m., with doors opening at 4 p.m.
The unruly debate in Anaheim continued inside the council chamber, where dozens of members of the public offered their views before the city leaders discussed the resolution that would have condemned the GOP front-runner's “divisive rhetoric.” The council voted 3-2 to take no action on the resolution.
Anaheim, the largest city in Orange County, is not the first in the country to consider denouncing Trump. Mayors from cities including Philadelphia and St. Petersburg, Fla., have condemned the billionaire developer, and former West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath has said Trump is not welcome in the city.
FOR THE RECORD
April 27, 8:57 a.m.: An earlier version of this story referred to West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath as the city's mayor. Horvath recently completed a rotating, one-year term as mayor.
But the proposal showed just how much Anaheim — once a bastion of conservatism in famously right-leaning Orange County — has drifted left as its population has become more diverse, making it an unlikely battleground in a polarizing national election.
“The rhetoric and the language he's using truly go against the grain of the city of Anaheim's core values as a city of kindness ... and as a city that's inclusive of our diverse community,” said Councilwoman Kris Murray, who proposed the motion during the last council meeting. The resolution, she said, was her bid to stand up for “tens of thousands of Anaheim residents who have been the target of Mr. Trump's campaign trail attacks.”
The resolution noted that Latinos make up a majority of Anaheim's residents and that the city is home to one of the nation's largest Muslim populations. Trump has drawn fierce criticism by claiming Mexico was sending rapists over the border. Later, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the U.S.
Outside City Hall before the meeting, witnesses said pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators carried signs and yelled at each other.
Linda Reedy, a Laguna Niguel resident and member of We the People Rising, a group of Trump supporters, said anti-Trump protesters “goaded” her and her friends. When an unidentified man attacked a friend, Reedy said, she tried to pull the stranger off and pepper spray stung her eyes.
“I just think they're so out of control,” Reedy said of Trump's opponents, later pulling out a wet cloth to wipe her eyes. “I'm so sick of the anger in this country,” she said.
Anaheim Police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said that no arrests were made after the clash and that police believe the pepper spray was used by anti-Trump demonstrators. Two witnesses said people on both sides used pepper spray.
Once the meeting got underway, more than 55 people signed up to speak during the public comment portion, among them dozens of Trump defenders who viewed the council's proposed action as beyond the scope of its authority.
“Your business is to govern Anaheim,” said Treva Wishart, a teacher's aide and 30-year resident of the city. “Keep your noses out of the national election.”
Raul Rodriguez Jr., the state coordinator of the pro-Trump group America First Latinos, also blasted the resolution and called his chosen candidate a “humanitarian,” adding: “He cares about this great country of ours.”
Mayor Tom Tait pounded his gavel again and again to try to control the increasingly angry crowd, which shrieked approval when one commenter announced that Trump had won all five states voting in Tuesday's primary.
But Ibrahem Dalati, a high school senior, said he felt compelled to tell Murray how much he appreciated her proposal as a Muslim American, telling the crowd that Trump supporters “are full of hate.”
“If Trump has to use hate to gain votes, we cannot support him,” Dalati said. “A great America is where someone can walk outside and smile at everyone and be able to help one another despite race or religion.”
Tait, the Republican mayor, told The Times before the meeting that he would abstain from voting and said he questions the resolution's legality.
“We've taken positions on legislation, but never on a candidate,” Tait said. “Certainly, privately, any council member or I could, but as an official government action — it's not appropriate.”
However, Murray said the city attorney reviewed the resolution and “it is fully authorized by state law.” The motion does not cost the city any money, she added.
As the meeting neared 10 p.m., the council considered a proposal by Murray to excise Trump's name from the language in the resolution, making it a broad condemnation of inflammatory presidential candidates.
Murray said that omitting Trump's name would "accommodate" different sides of the issue and focus on the objective: that the city "will not condone any attacks.”
Tait opposed voting on the amendment and said it should go on a future meeting agenda, allowing people to weigh in on it.
"Taking out Donald Trump's name makes it an entirely different resolution," Tait said.
No date has been set for the council to take up the alternative version of the resolution.
Cal State Fullerton psychology student Keith Carlson, a Trump critic, said he expected a fierce debate and chaos surrounding such a lightning rod of a candidate.
“They both want to be right. What ends up happening is both sides want to speak, but no one wants to listen,” he said. “That's the problem with this campaign.”
For Reedy, who was hit by pepper spray outside City Hall, opposing the council resolution was a matter of free speech.
“I don't think it's right for a government body to denounce a citizen just because they don't like what he says,” Reedy said. “It's chilling. It's anti-American.”
Trump is schedule to speak at the California Republican convention later this week.
Times Community News reporter Luke Money contributed to this report.