Clashes at Trump fundraiser draw GOP backlash

Trump supporters pose for a photo as they arrive, among several hundred anti-Trump protesters at the Minneapolis Convention Center for a fundraiser for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump Friday. Angela Jimenez for MPR News

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is long gone from Minnesota after a brief fundraising stop, but his supporters are still fuming over confrontations involving protesters and party donors as Friday’s event let out.

State Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey, who wasn’t at the Minneapolis Convention Center, denounced the treatment of fundraiser attendees who said they were spit on, jostled and otherwise verbally accosted as they arrived or departed.

Downey wrote to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on Monday demanding an accounting of city planning for the expected protests and why police didn’t do more to step in.

“One has to wonder how in the world with a marquee event like a presidential candidate coming to town that there were not those kind of precautions,” Downey said in a telephone interview. “There are legitimate questions to be asked and a basic level of physical safety and the ability to enter the public space would be at a bare minimum the requirement of the local city officials.”

Hodges’ office had no immediate response.

Some police at the scene were busy trying to keep protesters from disrupting Trump’s motorcade.

Meanwhile, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin condemned the actions of those who went beyond protesting Trump’s appearance.

“We support the right of protesters to gather peacefully but what happened on Friday night crossed the line,” Martin said in a statement released after Downey called for a public apology by the DFL Party leader. “There is no excuse for violence in any form.”

Martin said that the state DFL Party did not organize or promote the protest, and that Republicans were exploiting the actions of a few protesters for political gain.

“The way to stop Donald Trump is not to respond to violence with violence–but to organize, mobilize and vote,” Martin said.

Downey said party staff have fielded calls since from volunteers signed up for shifts at the Republican Party’s State Fair booth, voicing worry that they will be similarly targeted during the fair’s upcoming run. He said party leaders planned to meet with fair staff and the St. Paul police about precautions.

Update 3:50 p.m.:

The Minneapolis Police Department issued a statement saying it is investigating three reports related to Friday’s fundraiser, including a “robbery of person” where a cell phone was taken, an “assault” where a person had souvenirs ripped out of their hand, and a “damage to property” report after someone spray-painted graffiti on the convention center.  At this point, no arrests have been made.

Here’s the rest of the statement:

The majority of protests were peaceful throughout the evening and minor disruptions to traffic were handled without incident. Late in the evening, after the candidate left, Minneapolis Police Officers provided approximately 50 escorts for those who attended the event. However, we understand there were some attendees who left without escorts who were the subject of intimidation and abuse. The MPD is currently looking at video from some of these incidents.

Any rumors or reports that officers were told to “stand down” are false.

All told, the MPD had dozens officers working at, or near the convention center throughout the evening, including patrol officers from the 1st and 5th Precincts, members of the Bicycle Rapid Response Team and officers in the Mounted Patrol Unit.

If there are people who would like to file reports, we encourage them to visit the 1st Precinct (19 North 4th Street) and inform officers of crimes that may have been committed that evening. We also encourage people who may have video of these actions to provide them to 1st precinct officers for review.

MPR reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.