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Sen. Kevin de León, amid taunts from Trump supporters, tells Riverside to remain defiant

A Trump supporter reacts as California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, gives the keynote address during the Mexican and Latino State Summit at University of California, Riverside in Riverside Saturday, May 6, 2017. FRANK BELLINO, THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE/SCNG

De León was greeted with cheers and applause, but also with taunts from about a dozen Trump supporters in the room.

“Anchor baby,” “lawbreaker,” and “traitor” were among insults thrown at him. Once De León was in the room, one person said, “Where is ICE when you need them?”

De León has been seen as a leader in California’s resistance toward Trump. The morning after Trump was elected president, he released a joint statement with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, that spoke to California residents.

“Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land,” the statement read. The election results, it continued, “are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.”

Since then, De León has been pushing for a bill he authored, known as SB 54, that would create a statewide sanctuary for people in the country illegally.

During his address Saturday, many in the crowd began chanting, “54, 54, 54!” Trump supporters counted, “Build that wall!”

De León lambasted Trump for his pledge to strip federal dollars from sanctuary cities, calling it “morally repugnant” and “unconstitutional.” He defended science and pledged that California would continue to protect the environment by creating new jobs in clean energy. And he scolded Republicans for passing a health care bill that he described as “the largest tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans.”

“Poor people will get sicker and as a result, more people will die when their health care is taken away from them,” he said.

The gathering of more than 100 people got heated at times, as organizers tried to continue their meeting amid disruptions from those in support of Trump. Some of them scolded panelists for presenting in Spanish. Others held signs that read: “America First,” “Fire Kevin de León” and “Trump is our President.”

A number of UC Riverside police officers were at bay and at times escorted people outside to dissuade tensions.

Meanwhile, some Trump supporters were upset they weren’t given more of a chance to speak as organizers laid out rules to abide by during the meeting. Enrique Murillo, a Cal State San Bernardino professor and an organizer of the summit, said no one would be allowed to speak unless recognized.

Robert Lauten, a Trump supporter, said he wasn’t disruptive; all he did was hold a sign calling attention to illegal immigration.

He said he attended the gathering to voice his opposition to open borders. He criticized the state, saying it has high gas prices and low-performing schools. California, he said, is not business-friendly.

Armando Navarro, a professor emeritus at UC Riverside and a lead organizer of the gathering, said he anticipated disruptions.

Navarro said the gathering was held to help “awaken the Mexicano Latino giant.”

“For too long, we have been too complacent. For too long, we don’t seem to understand the power that we have,” Navarro told the crowd. “History is not on our side if we don’t organize, if we don’t politicize ourselves and prepare for the future.”

Among those present were representatives from the Brown Berets, a Chicano civil-rights group; the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates; and immigrant-rights groups TODEC Legal Center and the Alianza de Ex-bracero del Norte based in Los Angeles.

Rubyd Olvera, president of the campus group PODER, which stands for Providing Opportunities, Dreams, and Education in Riverside, said the event was necessary because it “brings to light the problems that we have here.”

“In regards to Riverside itself being really conservative. We obviously saw that today,” Olvera said.

“It goes to show the conversations that need to happen, the organizations that are already putting work into this … but also to move forward because this is not going to be a problem that’s going to solve itself,” Olvera added.

“It’s going to be solved by us and the next generation of leaders,” Olvera said.


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