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Unfazed by Bay Area protesters, Trump calls on California Republicans to unite

Trump arrives at California GOP convention

Donald Trump arrives at the California GOP convention in Burlingame through the hotel’s back entrance.

(KPIX )

Donald Trump, undeterred by protesters who nearly blocked his way into a Republican convention, called on the party Friday to unite behind him even as he lashed out once again at what he portrayed as its corrupt system for picking presidential nominees.

Police in riot gear were overwhelmed by demonstrators who knocked down street barricades and rushed to the entrance of the convention hotel near San Francisco International Airport. As officers scrambled to regain control, Trump’s motorcade pulled over on the shoulder of the 101 Freeway.

Surrounded by Secret Service agents, the New York developer clambered over a concrete barrier and entered the hotel through a back door.

“It felt like I was crossing the border,” Trump joked at a lunch banquet to hundreds of Republicans, who burst into laughter.

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Outside, protesters hurled rocks and eggs at the police, shoved and spit at Trump supporters, and burned the candidate in effigy.

It was Trump’s second day of campaigning in California, and he brought with him as much drama as he had the night before in Costa Mesa, where protesters blocked traffic, smashed the windshield of a police patrol car and shouted obscenities at his supporters.

Trump hopes to clinch the Republican presidential nomination by winning California’s June 7 primary. He was the first of three White House contenders slated to speak at the party gathering, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at a dinner Friday and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at a lunch Saturday.

A day after Trump’s fiery speech in Costa Mesa, where he dwelt on crimes committed by immigrants in the country illegally, the party’s front-runner was subdued in his remarks at the banquet.

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The GOP rank and file applauded politely, but it was an uneasy embrace as Trump charged that Republican candidates must bribe the party’s delegates — a number of whom were in the audience — to win its White House nomination.

“It’s a horrible, horrible, disgusting system,” he said.

Trump told the crowd he’d finally won more than 1,000 of the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the Cleveland GOP convention in July. According to the Associated Press, Trump’s tally Friday night was 996, but his point was to urge Republican activists to accept him as their presumptive nominee.

“I think it’s going to come to an end very soon,” said Trump, who hopes to crush Cruz’s candidacy by winning the Indiana primary on Tuesday. “And really, I’m speaking to the people in this room, because there has to be unity in our party.”

Still, Trump insulted party luminaries who oppose him, including Karl Rove, who was the top political advisor to former President George W. Bush. “Is he the dumbest human being on earth?” Trump asked.

“You’ve got to go a different way, folks, because these people are leading you right into the middle of a very bad, bad desert — and we’re going to win,” he said.

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“Ideally, we’re going to be together,” he added. “I think I will win even if we’re not together.”

Before his arrival, a cluster of protesters unfurled a giant yellow “Stop hate” banner that covered most of the window of the hotel’s nine-story glass atrium. Another group draped a huge “Dump Trump” banner from a bridge between the hotel and a parking lot. One cluster of demonstrators burned an American flag.

Adam Harry, 52, a Trump supporter from Contra Costa County, said protesters shoved him, called him a racist, snatched his phone and tossed it across a parking lot into a bush.

“They just completely got out of control,” he said.

Shekhiynah Larks, an 18-year-old student at the University of San Francisco, came to protest Trump, but was disappointed by the scene.

“I don’t think tagging or throwing eggs accomplishes anything,” she said.

Five people were arrested, according to police.

Before his speech, Trump attended a VIP reception, where he posed for photos with Republican donors next to the U.S. and California flags. Outside, a giant Mexican flag fluttered in the middle of the protest.

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michael.finnegan@latimes.com

javier.panzar@latimes.com

seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @finneganLAT, @jpanzar@LATSeema

 

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