Donald Trump came to the California Republican Party’s Spring Convention, and he brought police and protesters with him.
One disgruntled activist with a bullhorn got into the Hyatt Regency SFO in Burlingame, Calif., at 9:30 a.m. Reporters stampeded out of the pressroom into the concourse to see her led out by security a few seconds later.
“Shame on the GOP,” she yells into her bullhorn as men in black coats guide her out the door.
Protesters chanting “Dump Trump” spill out across a frontage road leading to San Francisco International Airport as the 2016 California Republican Party Spring Convention gets underway. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were able to address this same conference in previous years without anyone really noticing. But this year, we’ve got Trump, and Trump changes everything.
Outside the Hyatt, the Brass Liberation Orchestra adds some musical punch to speeches by members of the Anti-Police Terror Project, giving the protest a college football vibe. Deepa—many of the protesters declined to give their full name—plays percussion for the dissidents’ brass band.
“We are really angry right now, and by playing music we are not storming this place,” she says, pointing to the Hyatt Regency, its glass facade gleaming in the morning sun.
A young man circles the protest, carrying a large box of banana bread. He offers a full carbo-load to an middle-aged woman.
“Keep those away from me,” she says,” “I’m on a hunger strike.”
This festive vibe is gone by 11 a.m. as activists chain themselves to each other to block Trump’s entrance to the front of the hotel. Vanloads of San Mateo County sheriffs in riot gear arrive on the scene. They move barricades to bottle up the crowd.
Latina protesters splash water onto a man wearing a Trump 2016 cap and a black “ISIS HUNTING TEAM” t-shirt. They have a tense standoff with both sides pointing smartphones at each other, taking video.
With the noon start time of Trump’s speech approaching, Secret Service agents and California Highway Patrol officers gather at the back of the hotel. An entrance to Highway 101 is blocked off to traffic. This is where The Donald is now forced to sneak into the Hyatt.
I linger back there as long as I can until a very polite Secret Service agent in a bulletproof vest asks me to move. I retreat to the pool area where a lone man in an Atlanta Braves hat and red, white and blue trunks enjoys a swim with near-pandemonium all around him.
“This is worth the price of admission for sure,” he says. “I’m almost out of beer, though.”
I ask him his name: “I’m the guy in the pool,” he replies. I later find out that he’s a county treasurer.
Back in the pressroom, a video feed of Trump’s speech starts to play on two TV screens for all of us who didn’t get credentialed for the luncheon banquet.
“I felt like I was crossing the border,” Trump says about having to enter the hotel grounds through a hole in the fence.
Trump talks about winning, the border and Bobby Knight before closing his short address by mentioning his unique pathway to the Hyatt, and what may be in store for his exit.
“They’re gonna take me through a fence and through a field,” Trump says. “You should see the route they’ve got planned for me.”
Every month in “Shattering Conventions,” author Bob Calhoun crashes a new tradeshow, convention or conference looking for a way to fit in—even when he doesn't always belong. Calhoun is the author of "Shattering Conventions: Commerce, Cosplay and Conflict on the Expo Floor." You can follow him on Twitter at @bob_calhoun.