Protesters opposed to Donald Trump hurled rocks and bottles outside a Trump rally in New Mexico on Tuesday, the same day the bombastic billionaire won the Republican presidential primary in Washington state.
The primary victory brings Trump, the last Republican standing in the 2016 US presidential race, one major step closer toward clinching his party’s nomination.
But the success was clouded by violent anti-Trump demonstrations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Chaos erupted outside a Trump rally when protesters threw burning t-shirts and bottles at police, and tried to storm the convention center where the provocative Republican candidate was speaking.
Horse-mounted police and officers wielding clubs used pepper spray and smoke bombs to try to disperse the crowd.
The protesters, several of whom waved Mexican flags, chanted expletives about Trump. Some also waved signs with expletive-laden anti-Trump slogans in Spanish.
Trump has proposed building a wall on the Mexican border, suggested that Mexican immigrants were rapists and drug dealers, and urged the deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.
“Protestors are now throwing bottles and rocks at our Police Horses,” Albuquerque police tweeted.
The southwestern US state has highest percentage of Hispanic residents – nearly 50 percent – of any other state, and polls show that Hispanics overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s immigration proposals.
Trump addressed a rally of about 4,000 people earlier Tuesday evening, but was frequently interrupted by protesters, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
Police managed to stop a group of about 100 protesters who had tried to storm the convention center when Trump was speaking, the newspaper said. Riot police were deployed soon after.
Several Trump rallies have drawn protests, including in Chicago in March when his supporters clashed with protesters.
Trump has been criticized for inciting violence at his rallies.
– Trump’s Washington victory –
US networks called the race in Washington state for Trump shortly after polls closed at 8:00 p.m. (0300 GMT Wednesday).
With more than two-thirds of ballots counted, Trump earned 76 percent of the vote.
“Thank you Washington! #Trump2016 #MakeAmericaGreatAgain,” the candidate wrote on Twitter.
Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, and while he is not officially the flag bearer yet he is on the cusp.
He headed into the race in the northwestern state with 1,189 delegates, according to a CNN tally, just 48 delegates short of the 1,237 needed for the nomination.
Washington state has 44 delegates up for grabs. Trump will therefore cross the threshold and clinch the nomination on June 7, when California and four other states vote on the final day of the Republican primary contest.
The real estate mogul’s former rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as well as Ohio Governor John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, were still on the Washington ballot even though they had already dropped out of the race early this month following Trump’s decisive win in Indiana.
Trump, a political neophyte whose provocative campaign has turned American politics on its head, will be officially installed as the Republican presidential nominee at the party’s national nominating convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July.
He pivoted to the general election weeks ago, relentlessly criticizing his likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The former secretary of state has returned fire, although she is still engaged in the final stages of her Democratic battle against challenger Bernie Sanders.
The senator from Vermont has an extremely narrow path to the nomination, and the math clearly favors Clinton.
Washington held its Democratic primary in March, and Sanders won it easily. But Clinton, like Trump, is close to becoming her party flag bearer.