By Chris Stone
Political polarization was in full bloom on a warm Wednesday afternoon as backers and detractors of Donald Trump traded insults in Horton Plaza Park across the street from his fundraiser.
The president was in San Diego to attend a luncheon in support of his 2020 re-election campaign before traveling to view a section of border wall.
Small but passionate groups cheering and jeering the president were monitored by police at downtown intersections across from the U.S. Grant Hotel.
They drifted to opposite camps, with wars of words ensuing. However, no escalation to violence was reported among a reported 200 demonstrators.
But police officers occasionally told people to return to their respective areas when the shouting became heated.
“I think President Trump coming to California shows that he hasn’t forgotten about Republicans and conservatives in this state,” said Blake Marnell of San Diego.
“He hasn’t given up on us and we are not going to give up on him,” said Marnell, who wore a suit with a brick pattern to represent the promised U.S.-Mexico wall.
Renee Lotta of San Diego, who carried a Trump 2020 flag, said as she watched from across the street: “I’m just so grateful that he is standing up for righteousness. I’m just here to let him know that we are supporting him.”
Asked what she would tell the president, Lotta said she would express gratitude for what he has done and what he is doing.
“I’m a Christian,” she said. “I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, and I remember … when … ‘Merry Christmas’ was taken down. [Trump] put it back where there is a freedom to say it.”
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Lotta said she thought the president has already helped the military and veterans, but would like him to do more about homelessness.
“No one should live in these streets with America that is so great and so profitable. Our politicians have done nothing,” said Lotta, who calls herself a Latina for Trump. “I hope he sees what is really going on (in San Diego).”
A block away on Fourth Avenue, protesters voiced anger with Trump Administration policies.
“He’s not welcome anywhere in California really,” said William Johnson of the Backbone Campaign, helping display a huge Baby Trump balloon.
“His policies, his general disposition, and this childish behavior that we see is just very antithetical to the values that we Californians have,” he said. “We care about the environment. We care about refugees and asylum-seekers and immigrants. We want to make sure that we protect people and protect the planet.”
Paul Umus of San Diego ventured to the intersection where Trump supporters gathered.
He held a simple sign saying: “Impeach.”
“I think we need to stand up to this destruction of the middle class, and the Republicans just believe every con man who comes along,” Umus said. “You’ve got to stand up to corruption.”
Trump’s visit was part of a West Coast fundraising swing to Palo Alto, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and San Diego. The Grant Hotel event was expected to generate roughly $4 million for the campaign, while the trip as a whole was estimated to raise upwards of $15 million for the Trump Victory Fund, a joint committee of the Republican National Committee and the campaign.
Trump exited Air Force One at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar shortly after 11:30 a.m. and met with members of the Marine Corps, Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, who gave him a “mayor’s medallion,” which Vaus gives to city employees and local residents to honor them for their service to the community.
Kevin Faulconer, San Diego’s Republican mayor, didn’t attend the Miramar welcoming or other events.
Trump was accompanied at Miramar by hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien, whom he named his new national security adviser Wednesday morning.
Trump arrived at the U.S. Grant just before 1 p.m., but was not spotted by the public as he left his motorcade, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Police blocked off an area to traffic stretching from Beech to G streets and Front Street to Seventh Avenue.
The visit came on the same day Trump announced he would revoke California’s federal waiver to set its own standards of vehicle emissions, arguing it will lead to marginal differences in emissions and lower costs.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the White House has “abdicated its responsibility” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. On Wednesday, county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher concurred.
“A petty and petulant president is not only attacking California environmental standards, but the auto manufacturing industry that supports our efforts,” Fletcher said.
This is all a Trump-driven effort to increase greenhouse gas emission, gasoline consumption and air pollution — it makes nonsense,” the county supervisor said.
Trump visited Palo Alto and Beverly Hills Tuesday, taking time to rail against liberal bastions in a solidly blue state.
“We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening,” he said aboard Air Force One in a reference to homelessness.
He also suggested that the number of homeless residents in major cities is prompting some residents and business owners in those cities to move out of the country.
Around 2:15 p.m., Trump’s motorcade left downtown San Diego heading to Otay Mesa for the border wall. The visit was Trump’s first to the border in California since April, when he visited a section of the barrier in Calexico. Trump last visited the border in San Diego last year.
In response, San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium Chair Lillian Serrano called the border visit “political opportunism at its worst.”
“To have the president of the United States come to our border town to raise money so that he can further desecrate our way of life is an insult to our communities and to the asylum families in need that he has funneled into the private detention facility in Otay Mesa,” Serrano said in a statement.
At the border, Trump discussed plans to build new stretches of his oft-referenced wall along the border and praised the city of San Diego for the way it handles homelessness, taking the opportunity to chide Los Angeles and San Francisco again for the size of its homeless population.
“In the case of San Diego, the mayor’s doing the right thing, he’s doing a good job,” Trump said. “In the case of Los Angeles, it’s a disaster. If you look at San Francisco, it’s a total disaster what’s happening. They’re going to ruin those cities.”
A December 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that San Diego County had the fourth most homeless residents of any metro area in the United States, trailing Seattle/King County in Washington, Los Angeles County and New York City.
Just after 5 p.m., Trump departed San Diego for Washington, D.C., aboard Air Force One.
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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