President Trump spent his day in California perusing border wall samples, needling state officials, raising money and upholding a White House tradition: inciting traffic so bad it gets a name.
Obamajams made way for “Make America Late Again” on Tuesday, as Trump paid his first visit to California — a rogue state in his eyes — since he won the election in 2016.
It was a trip that brought out his most ardent lovers and haters, with enough law enforcement and barricades to keep them from assaulting each other — at least as of Tuesday evening.
At the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, he elicited laughs and applause as he ripped the media and proposed a new “Space Force” to wage war in space.
In the Los Angeles area, he was met with vitriolic protest signs and all manner of ridicule, such as “Chicken Don,” an inflatable chicken with orange hair meant to mock him as a coward.
When Marine One landed at Santa Monica airport, people flipped the middle finger at the helicopter or chanted “no Trump, no KKK, no Fascist USA!” For many demonstrators, this was the first time they could register their anger directly at him.
Others came to witness the spectacle and a small piece of history. Carlos Jimenez brought his 4-year-old son to the airport just to see a president. “Regardless of political party, it’s still the president,” Jimenez said. “It’s an experience.”
In a deep blue part of a blue county, that was about as much support as could be found.
Susan Diamond, 49, wanted to show her 12-year-old son that free speech is important. “We came to protest and show him that our values are different from this president,” she said.
Her son was more taken with Marine One. “I like the way they take off,” he said.
As Trump’s motorcade sped off to a $35,000-minimum fundraiser in Beverly Park, dozens of protesters lined the streets. At the intersection of Bundy Drive and Ocean Park Boulevard, Will Kozicki was walking his two dogs when he stopped to observe demonstrators. “I prefer that Trump was playing golf somewhere rather than coming here,” he said.
“But I’m supportive of the protesters,” said Kozicki, who works in finance. “I’m psyched to feel their energy.”
Under gray, at times rainy skies, turnout was lighter than expected. The slippery roads during the evening commute only made the traffic worse.
Mulholland Drive backed up for miles behind its closure at Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Streets around Beverly Hills came to a standstill, offering sightseers aboard a Starline Tour bus views not just of celebrity homes, but protesters and traffic congestion.
Intersections were snarled near downtown, where Trump was expected later at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Hotel in the Wilshire Grand.
But that was old hat in the land of Hollywood presidential fundraisers.
What was new was his visit to the Mexican border east of San Diego.
On Otay Mesa, dozens of Trump supporters gathered early Tuesday about half a mile from the international boundary, where Trump would inspect eight prototypes for the border wall that was his signature campaign promise.
“Build that wall! Build that wall!” they chanted. “Trump 2020! Trump 2020!”
They waved American flags and wore red “Make America Great Again” hats. Passing drivers honked and lowered their windows to give a thumbs-up.
One man clutched a handmade sign that read, “Assimilate Assimilate Assimilate” in red, white and blue. A woman held a sign depicting bricks that read, “Build the damn wall!” The song “Born in the USA” blared from a loudspeaker.
Gregory Brittain, an attorney and member of the Redlands Tea Party Patriots said he worries about the porousness of the border, saying “criminals, terrorists and illegal drugs can still come across.”
He put being a Trump supporter in California this way: “It’s kind of like waging guerrilla warfare behind enemy lines.”
He said he hopes the turnout of Trump supporters in California — where even a low 26% approval rating accounts for 10 million people — will inspire other conservatives here.
“There are so many people out there who think, ‘There’s no one out there who thinks like I do. I hope this sends a message: ‘I can do this, too.’”
A small fracas broke out after a protester dropped a Mexican flag from a car. The flag was torn to shreds and a man in a Trump hat and shirt threatened to burn it.
“They burn our flag in our country, burn theirs in ours!” another man shouted.
Others in the crowd calmed him down, saying it sent the wrong message.
To the west, at the border gateway of San Ysidro, dozens gathered Tuesday in a hilltop parking, with a view into Tijuana, to protest Trump and his wall.
Fifteen people held up signs with giant letters that spelled: BRIDGES NOT WALLS.
Someone else hoisted a sign that read, “Stormy Daniels has a higher approval rating.”
Peter Sickels, a retired Episcopalian priest from Ramona, held a 15-foot pole with a Mexican flag waving from the top. He hoped people in Tijuana would see it as symbol of solidarity and friendship.
The Rev. Colin Mathewson, a priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Diego, said the San Diego border barrier only pushed crossings farther east, into more dangerous mountain areas.
“It’s sad because there’s a reason people are coming from Mexico,” he said. “The border wall isn’t going to stop them.”
Angelica Godinez, 42, of San Diego, said the fact that Trump didn’t visit California for a year as president and is only coming to look at wall prototypes is a “slap in the face” to citizens and a sign he didn’t come to mend divisions.
“He doesn’t come here to talk to our residents, our politicians, our communities. He comes here to see a prototype of a border wall. To me, that is disrespectful to the people that vote, to the citizens of the United States of America.”
“California is a model, and I believe that he’s intimidated by that,” she added.
After his visits to the border and Marine Corps base, Trump flew to Los Angeles International Airport, then to Santa Monica via helicopter. Hundreds of the protesters gathered in Beverly Hills, several miles from the fundraiser, an event that resembled more of a festival than a protest.
Street vendors sold hot dogs, a live band played music and a stage was set up for speakers. Some protesters took advantage of the mud covered areas in the Beverly Gardens Park that formed after the rain and wrote “dump Trump” with the soles of their shoes.
It was only Omar Mohamed’s second day in Los Angeles, but he said already felt like he was at home.
Born in Tanzania, Mohamed, 37, lived most of his life in Columbus, Ohio, and said that the election of President Trump shocked him. He moved here this week to start a two-month job as a nurse, and seeing hundreds of people vocalize their frustration and anger toward Trump’s policies made him want to stay.
“People in my community back in Ohio voted silently, so we were shocked when Trump became president,” he said.
A friend from Ohio, Heather Semreen, said she was delighted to see the activism.
“This needs to be heard,” she said.