Thousands of American-flag-waving Trump supporters descended on Newport Beach on Sunday as the president arrived for a fundraiser to bolster his reelection bid on Nov. 3.
Red MAGA hats were ubiquitous in the crowd, and masks were scant. The sound of country music mingled with shouts of, “Four more years!”
The rally along Pacific Coast Highway and Newport Boulevard was raucous and confrontational at times.
A man from Tustin in a Trump-themed cowboy hat taunted a female Los Angeles Times reporter for wearing a mask.
When the reporter thanked him for the interview and walked away, the man followed her for several minutes, yelling, “Fake news!” while tailing her closely and inviting others in the crowd to harass her.
Shortly afterward, two counter-demonstrators holding a pride flag and a Biden sign were surrounded and heckled by dozens of Trump supporters who shouted, “Biden’s a pedophile!”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Armenian Americans joined the demonstration, in a show of solidarity with Armenia in its battle with neighboring Azerbaijan over a small separatist region on the border of the former Soviet republics. They demanded that Trump take action against Turkey, which has expressed support for Azerbaijan.
“Armenia needs Trump!” a protester, his shoulders draped in the orange, red and blue Armenian flag, yelled into a megaphone. “Save Christian Armenia!” Many of the Armenian American demonstrators were also Trump supporters.
Melimeh Soukiasian, 36, of Los Angeles said she wasn’t sure yet who she would cast a vote for in November but said she would support Trump if he spoke out against Turkey’s actions.
“Our U.S. tax dollars,” she said, “are funding the weapons that are being used to target civilians and hospitals, sacred churches in Armenia.”
Teresa Wallace, 67, drove all the way from Palm Springs on Sunday morning to welcome the president to Newport Beach. She was dressed head-to-toe in Trump- and America-themed regalia.
“He’s transparent and he’s handled the coronavirus as well as anybody else could’ve handled it,” Wallace said. “I trust him. He’s a Christian man.”
Lizanne Witte, a 63-year old from Laguna Beach, joined a small group of Biden supporters. She carried a sign that said “Science Makes America Great.”
A few Trump supporters chanted “Four more years” at the group, while others honked from their cars with American flags hanging out of the windows. Some shouted obscenities at Witte, a 32-year resident of Orange County.
“I’ve never seen this side of Orange County,” the community organizer said. “Even in protests about women’s rights and detained children, the reception had been respective differences in opinion. This is just nasty.”
Matt Stoutenburg, a 50-year-old electrical contractor from Tustin, said it was a “chance of a lifetime” to see the president.
“I would love to meet Trump and see Trump,” he said. “Who in their right mind wouldn’t, actually?”
He said he knew he’d be around like-minded people. “When the motorcade came it was that same kind of energy that you feel when you’re in a big stadium and they’re doing the wave,” he said.
Claudine Abraham, a 53-year-old attorney, said the energy in the crowd was electric. “He loves this country and he wants everyone to do well,” she said of the president.
Abraham came with her friend, Laura Alterman, a 54-year-old social worker, and their daughters. While Abraham supports Trump, Alterman and her daughter are liberal. Laura Alterman wore a white HRC hat.
“We’re friends, even though she’s really right, and I’m really left,” Alterman said.
She said she was there “just to witness it all. It’s a big deal, he’s in our town.”
“This has been interesting. I’ve never been this close to the president,” said Laura’s 12 year old daughter Shira Alterman. She said she and her friends call him “a walking Cheeto puff.”
Sabrina Jane Ramos, 37, of Brea, posed with a group of women who shouted “Latinas for Trump” as they waited for the president’s motorcade along Newport Boulevard.
“He rarely comes to California and I wanted the president to know that some of us support him,” the graphic designer said.
Stephanie Lo, 47, of Pomona, said she did not vote for Trump in 2016, but that she is backing him this time around. She wore a navy blue Trump hat as a show of her support.
“I don’t like his personality, but he’s efficient,” she said.
Trump was in Orange County for a fundraiser at the home of Palmer Luckey, a 28-year-old tech mogul. The Long Beach native, among California’s top GOP donors, is working on a defense startup whose projects include using technology to detect immigrants crossing illegally over the border.
Luckey’s Lido Isle mansion overlooks Newport Bay and sits at the tip of a manmade island that is home to about 800 residences and connected to Newport Beach by a two-lane bridge.
Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.