CLEVELAND, OHIO —
One of Donald Trump's highest-profile proposals is to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. On Wednesday, anti-Trump protesters used the same imagery to highlight one of the Republican presidential nominee's biggest weaknesses: his lack of popularity with minorities.
Several hundred protesters, including many from Hispanic organizations, dressed up in brick wall or fence costumes and held hands, forming what they called a symbolic "wall against hate" outside the arena where the Republican National Convention is being held in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Today, we're going to deliver a promise of giving Donald Trump his wall," said Eva Cardenas of the Ruckus Society, one of the groups participating in the protest. "We're going to wall off hate and xenophobia."
Among Republican delegates and supporters, the wall remains one of the most popular proposals by the party's nominee — one that delegates and even some senior party leaders continue to embrace.
Kenny Welch, a Trump supporter from Cleveland, compared the border wall to building a fence around your yard.
Unidentified protesters form a "wall against Trump's hate" outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. (W. Gallo/VOA)
"We have families at home, and we protect our families," Welch said. "The wall around the country will protect our families."
Mexican-American Marco Gutierrez, who called himself an "informal delegate from the Latino community," said he is not offended by the idea of a border wall.
"They can build a wall. They can build a river. They can build a lake and put alligators in it," he said. "It's their country."
"Everyone is thinking about this wall and their feelings getting hurt rather than seeing the reality," said Gutierrez, who works in real estate. "I'm voting for Trump because I think he's the man to restore the economy."
Not just the wall
Gutierrez's enthusiasm is not shared by most Hispanics.
Trump's unpopularity with Hispanic voters could be a barrier to his victory at the ballot box. The Republican nominee has the support of just 24 percent of Hispanics, compared to 66 percent for his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to a July poll from Pew Research.
Other Republican presidential candidates have done better with Hispanics. Four years ago, Mitt Romney, who lost, got slightly more of the Hispanic vote — 27 percent, according to exit polls. Ex-President George W. Bush, winning his second term in 2004, received 40 percent of the Hispanic vote.
A Trump supporter and a Trump opponent square off outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. (W. Gallo/VOA)
Trump has said he will build a wall along the 3,200 kilometer U.S. border with Mexico, a proposal that has drawn ridicule from Democrats and immigrant rights groups for its symbolism, its immense logistical challenge, and the claim that Trump could force Mexico to pay for it.
The wall isn't the only thing causing minorities to worry about Trump. He has also described Mexican immigrants as rapists, criminals and drug dealers, and has promised to form a massive deportation force that would round up undocumented immigrants and ship them out of the country.
It was a theme echoed during the opening days of the convention, as speaker after speaker addressed the consequences of undocumented migration.
"I hate all the rhetoric he's spewing," said Eric Cruz Lopez, who was dressed as a brick in the protest. Lopez has been in the country for 13 years, but is undocumented. "All this hateful rhetoric … these are things that become law."
Volunteers hand out free water to protesters at an anti-Trump rally outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. (W. Gallo/VOA)
Putting up walls
Wednesday's protest began in Cleveland's Public Square, which has become a central gathering point for both pro- and anti-Trump protesters. Organizers then began an unsanctioned march, trying to encircle the Quicken Loans Arena, the main convention site.
They were unable to do so. Instead, they settled for building their "wall" across most of two blocks near one of the main entrances to the arena, forcing police to clear a corridor for delegates trying to reach the convention.
The protest remained peaceful, but heated discussions took place between Trump critics and a few of his supporters.
Trump's campaign, along with his surrogates, have argued that Trump's support among Hispanics and other minorities is stronger than many polls suggest, saying they care about issues other than immigration.
"Many legal immigrant Latinos here don't believe in illegal immigration," said Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally and former speaker of the House of Representatives. "There are also many Latinos who are concerned about education, about jobs, and about health care."
But on Wednesday, protesters — including Cardenas — were there to remind the Republican nominee that he cannot count on their support.
"Our wall is just to let Trump know what happens when he puts up walls," she said.
VOA's Ramon Taylor and Celica Mendoza contributed to this report.
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