Words by Lily Waronker and Evan Wood

Walking up the road to the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, where Donald Trump is kicking off his California primary campaign, there is some confusion over where to cross the street. A stream of supporters, protesters, and onlookers head towards the Pacific Amphitheatre where Trump will deliver his speech, but a three-lane road with traffic going in both directions is in the way. Finally somebody takes the first step into the street, causing the traffic to yield. “We might as well just follow him,” says a middle-aged man in front of us.

It’s a meandering path around the perimeter of the Fairgrounds parking lot. There are bikers, kids in streetwear, and baby boomers with blonde hair. Back here it’s mostly impossible to tell who’s a Trump supporter and who’s not, unless of course they’re wearing the merch of their chosen candidate. Getting closer, there’s a man waving two American flags. “We’re for legalization!,” he yells. “Trump’s going to legalize weed!”

As we trail behind a parade of rowdy Orange Countians, we see Marty, a small woman in a wheelchair, waiting next to her Ford Expedition until the crowd’s parade dies down. Her shirt says, “Hillary Clinton for President—Run Hillary Run.” “I am with the Democratic party of Orange County,” she explains. “I was a Hillary delegate when she ran against Obama, I was a delegate when [Bill] Clinton ran, and I was a delegate for John Kerry; so I’ve been to four national conventions.”

Marty wasn’t chanting “Dump Trump” with the protesters, instead she chose to watch silently. “It is important for me to be here,” she says. “Of course I’m not worried, I don’t think he’ll get elected. He’s got a lot of money and he can do whatever he wants, but if you try and pin him down and ask him, ‘How are you going to do this? And how are you going to do that?’ he doesn’t have a clue, so now that he thinks he’s going to get the nomination, he’s starting to hire people to train him.’”

Other protestors are more unruly. There are plenty of signs, some funny and others grimly serious. The demeanor of the people holding them is usually a close match to the sign’s tone. A small group carries a cloth banner that reads simply, “Fuck Trump”.

A wall of horse-mounted police officers and caution tape separates the protestors from the massive line of would-be rally attendees. Moving towards the entrance gates, we meet Jack. He claims to have been fired from his job earlier that day. “What better way to come out and celebrate me being free from the bondage of this job,” he says. “I really feel that a lot of these people all feel the same, it’s just a misunderstanding.”

Jack isn’t a Trump supporter, but he doesn’t back any other candidate either. “I’m actually looking to unregister my association with the process,” he says. Then he adds that he is open to changing his mind somewhere down the line.

As the crowd gets closer to the entrance, a 17-year-old gets in the face of a Trump supporter who’s at least twice his age, asking the man if he wants to fight. Meanwhile, supporters in the line to get inside start taunting a man holding a sign that says, “No hate in our state.” “Are you an American?” someone asks. “Are you even registered to vote?”

A few minutes after 7:00PM, when Trump is scheduled to speak, the venue reaches capacity and the doors are shut. A group of diehards rush the gate, and what sounds like tasers firing can be heard. The crowd starts to rattle the gate, chanting, “Let us in! Let us in!”

The police form a barrier between the gates and the crowd. People spill back out into the parking lot and start arguing with each other. Water bottles and obscenities fly, but it doesn’t come to blows until later. We walk back to the car with a new friend, a covert Bernie Sanders supporter wearing a Bob Marley hat. He says he plans to wait out the post-event traffic at a nearby movie theater.