Authored by Juan Hernandez, originally posted at The Washington Post
This isn't how politics is supposed to work in the United States.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Last Thursday, I left work about 5 p.m. and drove to the San Jose Convention Center to hear Donald Trump speak.
I’ve been voting for conservative candidates for 15 years and a registered Republican since 2015. Now that the general election is underway, I believe Trump is the best candidate to fix our country’s many problems, and I believe he’s going to be the next commander in chief. So I was excited to hear him, and to show my support. Walking into the rally with a friend, I was a little wary: Trump’s speech to the California Republican convention in Burlingame had been disrupted by protesters, and I wasn’t sure whether to expect a similar scene in San Jose. But we got to the event early, and we must have been inside already by the time a crowd of protesters gathered in the streets near the convention center.
The speech really got me energized. I got a new sense of appreciation and respect for Trump after a Bernie Sanders supporter interrupted him with a sign. Trump didn’t blink: “Darling, there’s no way he can win, but keep your sign high,” he said. That is the president that I want. It was great being around so many Republicans — in the Bay Area, we don’t have a lot of that, so it was great to feel the camaraderie of being part of the GOP.
My trouble began once the rally was over.
My friend and I joined a crowd of Trump supporters who had all left the convention center around the same time. The garage where we had parked our car was right next to the building, but police were directing everyone around the block to another garage entrance instead. The farther we walked, the fewer Trump fans were with us — people began peeling off to go to restaurants or bars in the area, or to other garages nearby.
And suddenly, there were protesters everywhere. Some were holding Mexican flags, or burning American ones. They were yelling “F— Trump!” at us and cornering us. Some of them started grabbing Trump supporters — they were going up and slugging people, sucker-punching people, just picking random people out. As much as we wanted to help, because our fellow Republicans were getting hit, I knew any moment that could be me. So my friend and I just kept walking — sometimes, we’d be running. We saw police standing nearby, but they didn’t do anything. That scared me, because I thought, “Okay, if I’m next, there’s going to be no cops.”
About a block from the garage entrance, we turned down the street and found a line of protesters standing in our way. To get back to our car, we’d have to go through them. My friend and I were wearing “Make America Great Again” Trump hats. We were targets, and I was terrified. I could feel it coming — they would look at me and start walking up to me.
Before we could make it into the garage, four or five men surrounded me, and another four surrounded my friend. They just started swinging. We swung back as best as we could. My main thing was I didn’t want to fall; I didn’t want to be knocked down. I’m not a big guy, but I can defend myself as best I can if it’s one on one — but not when they have so much anger against us.
One of the blows caught my nose, and blood just started pouring out. That kind of stunned them, and they backed off a quick second. My adrenaline kicked in; I felt punches on my head, and I felt the punch that hit my nose, but I was in survival mode by then, and I didn’t realize until later how much it hurt. I called my friend, “Okay, let’s go!”
We ran into the parking garage, and we thought we were safe, but there were another few dozen protesters there, too. We got in our car and headed toward the exit. Some protesters jumped on the cars in front of us, but we eventually made it out. My friend drove me to the emergency room because my nose was pouring blood. I had a broken nose, and because I was covered with scratches, I had to get a tetanus shot, too. It took a lot out of me, much more than I realized at first; my headaches and soreness didn’t start to go away until a week later.
I still can’t believe how poorly the police handled the protests. I live by Levi’s Stadium, where the Super Bowl was. They had every single cop out there. Yet knowing the violence that’s been breaking out near Trump rallies, San Jose wasn’t prepared for it last week? So the Los Angeles chapter of Log Cabin Republicans held a news conference back in San Jose on Wednesday, to get some answers from the city’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, and its police department about why they let me and other people get attacked and only made a few arrests.
The whole thing made me angry. Here in Northern California, I feel like I’m a unicorn: I’m a gay Hispanic who’s a Republican. It was much harder to come out as a Trump supporter than it was to come out as gay — the minute you say you’re for Trump, everyone comes at you — but this has pushed me out of the closet about it completely.
I should be able to vote for whom I want, and I shouldn’t have to deal with violence to go hear my candidate speak. If people really want to protest at rallies, they should do it peacefully. I have a young niece and nephew, and I don’t want them to think this is how politics work in the United States. We can’t let our freedom of speech and our freedom of assembly be tarnished by politicians like those in San Jose who do not have our safety at heart.