Headed to Disneyland, Eric Bernsen and his family left their hotel in the Anaheim resort area Friday in Pooh hats, Maleficent ears and personalized Sleeping Beauty Castle shirts.
They did not know that Donald Trump was in town, and as they left the lobby they walked into a surprise: a scuffle between local Democrats and supporters of the former president.
“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Bernsen, 32, who brought his family down from Fresno to celebrate his wedding anniversary at the theme park. “We had to stop and watch.”
Nobody was reported hurt or arrested, but people pushed and shouted in each other’s faces outside the convention center where Trump was speaking to the California GOP.
Orange County Democratic Party Chair Ada Briceño was jostled, stretching her arms out to keep the two sides from physical confrontation.
“Biden won in Orange County,” Briceño said. “It’s really important for us to show that Trump is not welcomed here.”
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, hundreds of Trump supporters rallied boisterously while “God Bless the USA” blasted on repeat. One prominent poster featured Trump glowering in monarch’s garb beside the words BEND THE KNEE TO THE GREAT MAGA KING!
When Democrats tried to speak in front of the Hilton at a makeshift podium, Trump supporters interrupted them with yells of “This is MAGA country!”
One of the Democrats, Gerlind Kennedy of Dana Point, shook her head.
“I don’t even know what that means,” said Kennedy, 79. She motioned to the Trump crowd and said, “When you have radical people like this, they have no understanding of their country’s history.”
Adrian Gonzalez, 26, of Los Angeles came out to support the former president. He waved a flag that said “Don’t tread on Trump.”
“He’s putting America first and keeping our country safe by building a wall to keep our borders secure,” Gonzalez said. “He was also tough on China during the COVID pandemic. And he’s still standing after everything the Democrats threw at him.”
Kimberly Nguyen of Pasadena said she supported Trump because she left communist Vietnam in the 1990s and did not want America to become like the nation she fled.
“Without him, America has gone to hell in a handbasket,” Nguyen said.
Meanwhile, the Disney tourists kept trooping past, the Mickey glitter-ears lost in a sea of red shirts and Trump hats.
Bernsen, the tourist from Fresno, said his 8-year-old son, Brayden, was unhappy with the delay as his parents stopped to watch the arguing. The boy was thinking about the rides.
“He’s a little frustrated with us right now,” Bernsen said, smiling at his son. “He’s like, ‘This is adult stuff and you said we’re going to Disneyland, and now you better go and find me the most expensive gift at Disneyland because I have to sit around and wait.’”
Ashlyn Bassetti, down from Monterey County, was pushing a stroller to the theme park past arguing Democrats and Republicans.
“I woke up at 7 a.m. to the protests,” said Bassetti, 31. “I couldn’t even sleep in on my vacation.”