Patrol horses were pelted with bottles and rocks as they worked alongside police to contain a protest outside a Donald Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Tuesday evening.
“Protestors are now throwing bottles and rocks at our Police Horses,” the Albuquerque Police Department advised in a stream of tweets about the rapidly unfolding situation around the Albuquerque Convention Center. An image emerged of a fallen police horse.
Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, later branded those responsible for the violence that erupted outside the rally as thugs.
Inside the convention center, several demonstrators interrupted Trump’s speech to an audience of about 8000, and were removed from the venue.
Outside, there appeared to be a series of different anti-Trump protests, most of which were peaceful.
However, the situation deteriorated when around 100 people forced their way through a barricade near the center and approached its doors.
Police in riot gear formed a line to prevent their progress while other citizens outside the venue reportedly stepped between the protesters and police in an apparent attempt to keep the situation calm.
Protestors are now throwing bottles and rocks at our Police Horses.
— Albuquerque Police (@ABQPOLICE) May 25, 2016
Police reinforcements quickly joined the security effort.
At some stage a glass door at the front of the center was smashed.
Before the rally, anti-Trump protesters chided those waiting in line to enter the convention center.
Protesters later set alight Trump T-shirts, with reports some were thrown toward police. Police cars were also damaged.
Police were reported to have used smoke grenades and pepper spray in efforts to disperse the crowds.
As the evening wore on, following Trump’s departure, the police tweeted: “Appears that most of the @realDonaldTrump protestors have left & remaining contingent is only looking to cause trouble & be destructive.”
Several police officers were reportedly treated for injuries, and an image emerged of a police horse that had fallen.
Albuquerque Police tweeted later in the night: “After numerous questions: our horses (and riders) are all ok. They were checked/cleared by the vet.”
They would be back at work tonight, the police added.
Police said four people were arrested on the night and officers escorted about a dozen protesters out of the area. More arrests would be made, officers said.
Albuquerque City Council president Dan Lewis later issued a statement condemning the violence.
“The violence that we’re seeing this evening is absolutely unacceptable, and it is not the fault of Donald Trump, his campaign, or the attendees at the rally this evening,” he said. Lewis blamed ‘so called public interest groups’ fomenting hate.”
“This was not a protest — it was a riot that was the result of a mob trying to cause damage and injury to public property and innocent citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble.”
Albuquerque’s mayor, Richard Berry, thanked the peaceful protesters, but said the city would work to hold the rioters accountable. He said the freedom of individuals to support the candidate of their choice was a sacred first amendment right.