ANAHEIM – Anger filled the air in and outside Anaheim City Hall on Tuesday night as the council considered, but took no action, on a resolution denouncing “divisive rhetoric” by Donald Trump.
Supporters and opponents of Trump rallied outside, where there was a pepper-spray altercation, and later filled the City Council chamber to speak about the Republican presidential candidate.
After more than 5 hours of public comment and debate, the council voted 3-2 to take no action on whether to denounce the remarks by Trump and his comments on women, Latinos, Muslims, veterans, immigrants and refugees.
Mayor Tom Tait was one of three on the council who voted to table the resolution introduced by Councilwoman Kris Murray. The others voting to table the measure were council members James Vanderbilt and Lucille Kring. Murray and Councilman Jordan Brandman voted against tabling it.
Trump supporters in attendance applauded the vote.
At the start of the 5 p.m. meeting, more than 76 people lined up to speak in front of the council, many about the resolution that Murray introduced.
Murray, who later introduced an amendment to her original resolution to remove Trump’s name and denounce all presidential candidates with divisive rhetoric, said her intention was to stand up for those Anaheim minorities hurt by his words.
“I want them to know that they have a voice in the city,” Murray said. “Words can be harmful and can have a genuine impact in people’s lives and the council should weigh in on this.”
Tait said the city had no business weighing in on a national campaign.
“This is not an action I believe for a city council (or) for a government body to take,” he said. “There’s supposed to be an iron wall between campaigns and a government entity. We are not here to put a rubber stamp or stamp of approval for one campaign or one another.”
The council’s decision capped a volatile day where pro-Trump supporters clashed with anti-Trump demonstrators.
Pro-Trump supporters organized an afternoon rally outside City Hall, before filling the council chamber and a viewing room inside.
Many at the lectern directed their frustration at the Republican councilwoman.
Tait often had to press for civility, at times slamming his gavel to calm the contentious and unruly crowd. Police officers flanked the room. Two people were kicked out for interrupting a speaker.
“Freedom of speech – our First Amendment – is a very important one,” Tony Tarantino, an Anaheim resident, told the council. “You are stepping on an American citizen’s freedom of speech.”
“I was appalled by your resolution,” said Yolanda Lopez, also of Anaheim. “You want to take our constitutional right away from us? “I think all of you should be worried about Anaheim.”
Former state Sen. Lou Correa, now a congressional candidate, attended the council meeting to support the resolution.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Correa. “You talk about the ‘City of Kindness.’ This is a time to send a message to those who are watching that Anaheim will not be divided. Keep Anaheim a peaceful city.”
“Orange County is a place of immigrants,” said Luis Vega, an activist from Anaheim. “We are a community of immigrants of all races and faiths. We stand today in solidarity for one another.”
The fireworks inside the council meeting were preceded by an altercation during the rally outside City Hall.
More than 50 Trump supporters and opponents – about two dozen on each side – clashed. Five people were pepper-sprayed – three were treated at the scene, two didn’t require treatment, Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.
No one was taken into custody during the altercation, but police were working to find the sprayer, he said.
At least two of those sprayed were female Trump supporters and two were children, ages 8 and 11.
A woman wearing a red “Make America Great Again” cap was hit on the left side of her face with the spray. Both of her grandchildren were also hit.
Paramedics were seen pouring water into the victims’ eyes to try to remove the stinging spray. The 8-year-old cried hysterically.
Pressing a white ice pack to the right side of her face, Linda Reedy of Laguna Niguel said she was also hit with pepper spray.
“All I remember is a young man jumped on one of my friends and I told him to get off. Then I got pepper-sprayed,” said Reedy, 53, wearing a U.S.A. shirt and cap.
“I’m a Trump supporter, but I’m here to support free speech. Anaheim has more important things to worry about.”
“What she’s doing is un-American,” Reedy said of Murray, the councilwoman.
Claremont-based We the People Rising had organized a rally in front of City Hall to show support for Trump and criticize Murray.
Carrying American flags and signs that read “Make America Great Again,” “We Love Trump” and “Trump for President,” the vocal crowd chanted “U-S-A” and “Trump All The Way.”
Chanell Temple, an African American woman in her 60s, drove in from Los Angeles to carry a “Black for Trump” sign and voice her support.
“I really believe Donald Trump can make America great again,” Temple said. “His movement will unite everybody to make a great America. With his business acumen, he can help the black community get jobs.”
The pro-Trump protesters were met by another group of mostly young people. Most of the protesters moved inside once the City Council meeting started.
A few remained outside, holding anti-Trump signs on the building’s steps and trying to attract the attention of passing motorists.
At the end of the meeting, Trump supporters cheered and said they believed the council made the right decision.
Raul Rodriguez, 74, of Upland, was one of the Trump supporters who was pepper sprayed by a protester. After flushing out the pepper spray, he said he felt okay. He said Murray should have never brought her resolution to the council and believes the large pro-Trump turnout may have influenced the council’s decision.
“It was a good day for us,” Rodriguez said. “We made a big impact. A lot of us were against this.”
Josue Pinea, an 18-year-old Santa Ana College student, said the council buckled under pressure from Trump supporters.
“It’s embarrassing to see people of that age talk about making the nation great again when they can’t even act civilized in a room,” Pinea said.
“I feel like they (the council) did that not based on what was right. I feel like they did that to avoid conflict because there were more Trump supporters.”
Staff Writer Chris Haire contributed to this report.
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