A PROTEST outside a Donald Trump rally in New Mexico turned violent, with demonstrators setting fire to merchandise and clashing with police.
Officers fired pepper spray and smoke grenades into the crowd outside the Albuquerque Convention Center.
During the rally, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was interrupted repeatedly by protesters, who shouted, held up banners and resisted removal by security officers.
The banners included the messages “Trump is fascist” and “We’ve heard enough”.
At one point a female protester was physically dragged from the stands by security. Other protesters scuffled with security as they resisted removal from the convention centre, which was packed with thousands of loud and cheering Trump supporters.
Trump responded with his usual bluster, instructing security to remove the protesters and mocking their actions by telling them to “Go home to mommy.”
Trump’s supporters responded with chants of “Build that wall!”
Trump later tweeted “Great rally in New Mexico, amazing crowd!”
The altercations left glass at the entrance of the convention centre smashed.
Albuquerque attorney Doug Antoon said rocks were flying through the windows as he was leaving. Glass was breaking and landing near his feet.
“This was not a protest, this was a riot. These are hate groups,” he said of the demonstrators.
Albuquerque police said several officers were treated for injuries after getting hit by rocks thrown by protesters. At least one person was arrested from the riot, police said. During the rally, protesters outside overran barricades and clashed with police in riot gear. They also burned T-shirts and other items labelled with Trump’s catchphrase, “Make America Great Again.”
Tuesday marked Trump’s first stop in New Mexico, the nation’s most Hispanic state.
Gov. Susana Martinez, head of the Republican Governors Association and the nation’s only Latina governor, has harshly criticized his remarks on immigrants and has attacked his proposal to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. The governor did not attend the rally and has yet to make an endorsement.
Trump read off a series of negative statistics about the state, including an increase in the number of people on food stamps.
“We have to get your governor to get going. She’s got to do a better job, OK?” he said, adding: “Hey, maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico. I’ll get this place going.”
The governor’s office fired back, saying Martinez has fought for welfare reform.
“The potshots weren’t about policy, they were about politics,” said spokesman Michael Lonergan. “And the Governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans, and she did not hear that today.”
Trump supporters at the rally said they appreciated his stance on boosting border security and stemming the flow of people crossing the border illegally, but some said they were frightened by the violent protests outside.
Karla Molinar, a University of New Mexico student, said she participated in disrupting Trump’s speech because she felt he was attacking members of her family who are living in the country illegally. She said she believes Trump is using them as scapegoats for the nation’s problems.
Meanwhile, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and Trump each won primaries in Washington state. Trump’s win moves him to within 28 delegates of the Republican nomination.