What started as a calm protest outside Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday erupted into fiery violence as protesters jumped on police cars, smashed windows and fought with Trump supporters and police.
Police faced such an angry crowd that they called in reinforcements from around the state, seeking to double their numbers to counter the protesters, whose numbers swelled beyond 600. Police said on social media that at least one person was arrested in “the riot” and that multiple officers were injured after being hit by rocks.
Many protesters tried to keep the peace. At one point, a young woman waded into a crowd of protesters who had shoved a man to the ground and kicked him. She and police eventually broke up the fight.
Other protesters stood between an agitated crowd and police, some in riot gear, to help calm the protesters. But the crowd remained unruly.
As the Trump rally let out, protesters hurled burning T-shirts and bottles at Albuquerque police officers on horseback standing guard at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Police responded by launching smoke into the crowd, sending people running through the streets coughing and screaming.
Other protesters made their way to where the rally attendees exited the Convention Center near Civic Plaza.
Protesters and Trump supporters yelled racially tinged taunts at each other – “Go back to Mexico,” one young man yelled at protesters.
“Where’s that white boy?” a protester called out at another point.
Drivers in passing cars revved their engines, and passengers hanging out the windows waved large Mexican flags. Groups of protesters wove in between the vehicles, yelling, “Viva Mexico!”
Men punched and shoved each other periodically as the night continued, though it wasn’t always clear what, if anything specific, started the fight.
Scared children clung to adults weaving through the chaos. Two young men helped an older woman navigate the danger as she plugged her ears while engines revved and horns honked.
Protesters started gathering at about 4 p.m. and held a family-friendly tone for a while until Trump supporters started walking along a sidewalk adjacent to the protest area. It tuned into what one police officer called “the gauntlet of hate” as protesters threw water and water bottles and waved signs while yelling angrily and often yelling profanity and aggressive taunts.
A group of traditional native healers joined the protest and a passing Trump supporter yelled “you’re a wetback” at them.
“Socialism never, capitalism forever,” one Trump supporter yelled at the protesters.
And some passing supporters told the protesters to “go back to Mexico.”
Others passing through the gauntlet felt scared and intimidated including kids whose mothers covered their ears as they walked by protesters.
Police eventually routed the Trump supporters away from the gauntlet. Shortly after, about 7 p.m., protesters broke through the barrier containing them in the protest area. And several minutes after that break, they toppled another barrier and rushed toward the Albuquerque Police Department’s mounted horse unit.
The officers quickly responded on their horses, but one of the large animals slipped on the road and buckled to the ground. It wasn’t clear if it was injured but it remained on the line for the remainder of the night.
Protesters then rushed the entrance of the Convention Center while vendors who had been in the area fled. Some protesters grabbed merchandise and promptly set it on fire. Small fires burned throughout the night.
They used their mounted horse patrol officers to move the crowd west and south away from the center.
While smaller, the crowd at this point was not calmer.
They threw large rocks and lit firecrackers at the police, at times striking and spooking the horses. They carried Mexican flags and yelled at the police in Spanish.
By the time the chaotic procession, which at one point knocked down part of a wooden apartment complex fence, reached Fourth Street and Silver, the crowd started to disperse.
By 11 p.m., police in riot gear continued to patrol the streets around the center, Civic Plaza and the final route of the protesters through Downtown.
Police did not return calls seeking information about arrests or injuries and a police spokesman said he did not have official information about the night.
By 11:30, about 120 Albuquerque and State Police officers and sheriff’s deputies gathered in Civic Plaza to rest their feet, take off their riot gear and sit down to share stories over bottled water.
Journal staff writers Robert Browman and Elise Kaplan contributed to this story.