One man grabbed Tylina Hardy’s bangs while a woman pushed her from behind, stumbling as Hardy moved to get away. That’s when the crowd at Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday night started accusing Hardy of violence.
“She physically hurt her! She physically hurt her!” a man is seen bellowing in footage of Hardy’s arrest during the event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hardy, a 30-year-old Albuquerque massage therapist who was protesting at the Trump rally, does not consider herself an activist, she told The Daily Beast. She didn’t attend any meetings of protest organizers; she was there alone. But video of her arrest—the first and only at the Tuesday rally—shows a scene from a political tinderbox, a prelude to a night that turned violent, inspiring rumors of “professional protesters.”
Organized protest groups did attend the rally, activist George Lujan says. He and his social justice group SouthWest Organizing Project had spent the previous week planning a demonstration.
“We had peacekeeping training, multiple community meetings where we talked about how we were going to keep everyone safe,” Lujan told The Daily Beast. “We had peacekeepers who were out there through the afternoon and evening.”
While the SouthWest Organizing Project and other protest groups gathered behind police barricades outside the Albuquerque Convention Center, Hardy entered the auditorium with the rally attendees, slipping past security guards who had given up on checking tickets. Concealed among Trump supporters, she chatted with her neighbors, striking up a friendly conversation with one man standing next to her.
“I was like, so crossing my fingers that he was also a dissenter,” Hardy said. “He wasn’t.”
The amiable atmosphere evaporated once Trump took the stage. A group of protesters had launched into an anti-Trump chant several rows behind Hardy and had been escorted out with little incident. But by the time Hardy began her own chant of “stop the hate,” the crowd had lost its patience.
“The crowd was more agitated by that point,” she said. “Trump is a good agitator, as much as he does that double-speak of his.”
Suddenly, the crowd was swarming. A man grabbed Hardy’s hair and pulled her head toward him, she says. A bearded man in an American flag T-shirt and a “Make America Great Again” seized one of Hardy’s arms, while two Albuquerque police officers pulled her other arm in the opposite direction. A third Trump supporter tried to wrench a campaign poster from her hands. People grabbed at her bra and shirt, which she had pushed up at the back to reveal her “UNITY IN DIVERSITY” tattoo. “I was hoping would show up, but I guess I need to get that refreshed,” she said.
The incident took place at about 7:30 p.m. inside the convention center. And as tension built in the pro-Trump auditorium, protesters outside the rally were growing similarly rowdy. “Where there are good people in the Trump rally, there are violent people in the peaceful protest,” Hardy said.
The SouthWest Organizing Project’s peacekeepers are trained to act as a buffer between protesters and their potential adversaries. But as darkness fell and the rally wrapped up, the peacekeepers went home.
“After dark, we had to go home, we had to get our people out of there and make sure the families get away,” Lujan said. “Our peacekeeping crew really kind of ran the protest to make sure people were safe, but after dark when we left, then it becomes the job of the Albuquerque Police Department to ensure everyone’s safety.”
The protesters who lingered after dark were less interested in everyone’s safety. Trading racially charged insults with Trump supporters, demonstrators stormed a crowd control barrier, flinging rocks, bottles, and burning “Make America Great Again” T-shirts at police officers, who responded in kind with smoke canisters and riot gear-clad officers on horseback. Dramatic images of young protesters climbing atop police vehicles and lighting fires inspired at least one local legislator to accuse the SouthWest Organizing Project of planning a violent protest.
The violence was “directly the result of so called public interest groups, such as ProgressNM and the Southwest Organizing Project, fomenting hate,” Albuquerque City Council member Dan Lewis wrote on Facebook. “These organizations this evening devolved from community action groups to hate groups by every usual measure.”
Lujan said the violent protesters had nothing to do with any organized group.
“We were completely unaffiliated [with violent protesters], other than the fact that they could possibly be considered disenfranchised communities in New Mexico, which is who we represent,” he said. “I know a lot of our people had bottles and rocks thrown at them as well, so I don’t know if it was just kind of an indiscriminate expression of these people’s anger.”
Organized or not, some of that outpouring of anger came from a subset of Albuquerque youth who feel left behind, Hardy says.
“It seems like it’s a younger crowd that comes later on, which I can understand, especially in New Mexico,” Hardy said. “We’re a state that runs pretty low on pretty much every list, other than maybe ‘Best Green Chili’…There is a lot of anger in our state. You can see it through our crime statistics, our drug and alcohol statistics.”
Footage of Tuesday night’s violent protest shows young people at the front line of clashes: A young woman in a crop top and braids falls to the ground as police fire pepper spray at her. Boys in baseball caps start a bonfire fueled by T-shirts and Trump posters.
Though they lobbed rocks and bottles at officers, none of these protesters were arrested—a sign the clashes could have been much worse, says Hardy, the only person jailed Tuesday night.
“Coming from the understanding that I don’t know everything that went on because I wasn’t there, I think they actually handled it pretty well,” Hardy said of how the Albuquerque police conducted themselves outside the convention center. “From what I understand, they used smoke instead of tear gas, which is like, ‘Whoa, you did Step 1 first?’”
Released from jail after one night on disorderly conduct charges, Hardy is now one of many Albuquerque residents—both human and police horse—recovering from the night of violence.
“Now we have to do the work of healing, of cleaning up the mess that Trump left here,” Lujan said. “He jumped on a private jet and headed out to his next racist rally, and we have to do the healing process here in Albuquerque, of fixing the divisiveness he brought to town.”