- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2016

A gay Hispanic Republican penned an op-ed Friday detailing his terrifying experience last week when a horde of protesters in San Jose, California, allegedly surrounded and attacked him as he was leaving a Donald Trump rally.

Seven suspects have since been arrested in connection with violence outside the June 2 rally at the San Jose Convention Center, including three juveniles, but police have been criticized for doing too little too late.

Multiple fights broke out between demonstrators and Trump supporters, leaving several supporters bloodied. Rally attendees heading back to their cars reported being egged, followed and intimidated by mobs of protesters.

Juan Hernandez, a longtime Republican and supporter of Mr. Trump, said he was harassed and sometimes chased all the way back to his car, where he was allegedly jumped by several people.

“Now that the general election is underway, I believe Trump is the best candidate to fix our country’s many problems, and I believe he’s going to be the next commander in chief,” Mr. Hernandez wrote in an op-ed Friday morning for The Washington Post. “So I was excited to hear him, and to show my support.

“My trouble began once the rally was over,” he wrote. “My friend and I joined a crowd of Trump supporters who had all left the convention center around the same time. The garage where we had parked our car was right next to the building, but police were directing everyone around the block to another garage entrance instead. The farther we walked, the fewer Trump fans were with us — people began peeling off to go to restaurants or bars in the area, or to other garages nearby.

“And suddenly, there were protesters everywhere,” he continued. “Some were holding Mexican flags, or burning American ones. They were yelling ‘F— Trump!’ at us and cornering us. Some of them started grabbing Trump supporters — they were going up and slugging people, sucker-punching people, just picking random people out. As much as we wanted to help, because our fellow Republicans were getting hit, I knew any moment that could be me. So my friend and I just kept walking — sometimes, we’d be running. We saw police standing nearby, but they didn’t do anything. That scared me, because I thought, ‘OK, if I’m next, there’s going to be no cops.’

“About a block from the garage entrance, we turned down the street and found a line of protesters standing in our way. To get back to our car, we’d have to go through them. My friend and I were wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ Trump hats. We were targets, and I was terrified. I could feel it coming — they would look at me and start walking up to me,” Mr. Hernandez wrote.

“Before we could make it into the garage, four or five men surrounded me, and another four surrounded my friend,” he said. “They just started swinging. We swung back as best as we could. My main thing was I didn’t want to fall; I didn’t want to be knocked down. I’m not a big guy, but I can defend myself as best I can if it’s one on one — but not when they have so much anger against us.

“One of the blows caught my nose, and blood just started pouring out. That kind of stunned them, and they backed off a quick second. My adrenaline kicked in; I felt punches on my head, and I felt the punch that hit my nose, but I was in survival mode by then, and I didn’t realize until later how much it hurt. I called my friend, ‘OK, let’s go!’” he wrote. “We ran into the parking garage, and we thought we were safe, but there were another few dozen protesters there, too. We got in our car and headed toward the exit. Some protesters jumped on the cars in front of us, but we eventually made it out. My friend drove me to the emergency room because my nose was pouring blood. I had a broken nose, and because I was covered with scratches, I had to get a tetanus shot, too.”

Mr. Hernandez said he suffered headaches for at least a week after the incident.

“The whole thing made me angry,” he wrote. “Here in Northern California, I feel like I’m a unicorn: I’m a gay Hispanic who’s a Republican. It was much harder to come out as a Trump supporter than it was to come out as gay — the minute you say you’re for Trump, everyone comes at you — but this has pushed me out of the closet about it completely.

“I should be able to vote for whom I want, and I shouldn’t have to deal with violence to go hear my candidate speak,” Mr. Hernandez concluded. “If people really want to protest at rallies, they should do it peacefully. I have a young niece and nephew, and I don’t want them to think this is how politics work in the United States. We can’t let our freedom of speech and our freedom of assembly be tarnished by politicians like those in San Jose who do not have our safety at heart.”

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