Photos: Protesters rail against Trump trip to Tucson
Hundreds of protesters marched from nearby Armory Park to the Tucson Convention Center on Saturday, expressing their disapproval of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential contender was set to appear at a campaign rally.
Trump returned the favor, relishing the now-familiar disruptions to the campaign stop.
"We want to love our protesters," he said from the podium on the floor of the TCC arena. "Nah. Get him out of here."
More than a dozen were removed, with at least two assaults taking place.
A group of about seven people were ejected from the arena as Trump arrived.
"We were about two rows away from Trump when he came out," said one of those protesters, Austin Counts, whose business was threatened soon after his removal was reported. "As soon as he started to talk we started chanting, "Black lives matter" and got tossed out."
None of that group were arrested, he said.
At least two members of the audience was detained by police. As a female protester wearing a peaked white Ku Klux Klan hat was led out while Trump repeatedly called the demonstration "disgusting," a black man standing near the stairs up from the arena floor punched another nearby protester in the face and kicked at him as he lay on the ground.
Bryan Sanders, 33, was wearing an American flag shirt and carrying a poster depicting Trump with a Confederate flag superimposed on his face when he was jumped.
Police quickly arrested the attacker, Tony Pettway, 32, for misdemeanor assault.
As five police officers responded to the assault, Trump assailed the protesters.
"That's a disgrace. Y'know, they're taking away our First Amendment rights," he said. "They're troublemakers; they're no good. We'd better be careful. We've got to take our country back, folks."
In another incident, a female protester — reportedly a University of Southern California student — was punched by a man in the crowd. She was being treated by paramedics at the scene after the rally.
Another woman, 67 years old, was cited for assaulting a TPD officer, after she poked him in the chest while trying to explain how she was injured by a Trump supporter, who she said pushed her against the railing and kicked her.
Counts, who owns a local small business, said that his employees were receiving death threats and phone calls threatening to burn down his store following his ejection from the rally. Counts didn't indicate if he had reported the threats to police.
Trump entered and left the stage as rapper KRS-One's "Are You Ready For This?" boomed from the speakers. As he launched into his standard stump speech, chants and catcalls nearly drowned him out, despite his voice being amplified through the public address system.
Trump stuck to familiar themes during his 51-minutes speech, repeatedly claiming he'll "make American great again," and at one point reading the lyrics to the Al Wilson song "The Snake," which the candidate has used as an allegorical justification for his stance that the United States should refuse to accept refugees from Syria.
Earlier, about 200 people made their way to the site of the campaign rally, ready to confront those who were entering the Downtown arena for an afternoon speech by Trump.
Tempers flared at times between protesters and Trump supporters outside as about 5,000 people gathered inside the 9,200-seat arena for the event.
And many protesters also made their voices heard inside. Even before Trump arrived on the podium, at least 10 people were removed from the arena.
Large sections of seating were empty as Trump began to speak, and the floor of the arena was not filled.
An unidentified representative of Trump's campaign addressed supporters inside, saying that the candidate "believes in the First Amendment as much as he does the Second. But this is an event paid for by Mr. Trump; we have put a safe area to protest outside."
"If someone around you begins to protest, please do not touch or harm the protester. This is a peaceful rally," said the Trump campaign rep.
The crowd momentarily booed, then erupted into a chant of "USA! USA!"
A series of speakers preceded Trump. Arizona State Treasurer Jim DeWitt introduced former Gov. Jan Brewer as the author of "Scorpions for Breakfast" and the woman who gave President Obama a wave of her finger.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio also helped warm up the crowd.
"I didn't know anyone liked me in Tucson" he said.
A protester far behind Arpaio yelled, "Stop Trump."