Supporters of Donald Trump gathered in Colorado on Friday to protest the outcome of a presidential convention that did not award the businessman a single delegate.
Several dozen people were seen on social media showing up to take part in the rally on the steps of the state capitol in Denver, in what organizers described as a repudiation of Colorado’s delegate process.
“The process is very confusing. It’s also designed to discourage voter participation. They don’t want a lot of people to show up,” Erin Behrens, a lead organizer of the gathering, told The Hill in a phone interview.
Behrens, a 28-year-old mother of three who described herself as an entrepreneur, said she has felt “betrayed” by the party.
“Donald Trump is not part of that system. He’s outside of it. He’s the candidate who potentially could fulfill the promises that the Republican Party [makes],” Behrens said.
Trump supporters called for a binding straw poll in Colorado after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last week took all 34 delegates up for grabs in the state where Trump’s campaign did not have a robust operation.
The businessman has been lashing out at a “rigged” GOP primary system since Cruz swept the state, which voted last year to skip a presidential preference poll for a series of caucus-type meetings leading up to a convention.
Organizers were expecting upwards of 1,000 people at Friday’s protest, with nearly 500 indicating on a Facebook page set up for the event that they would attend, though local reports indicated closer to 100 attended.
Protest organizers said they were pushing for reforms to the GOP nominating process in Colorado and for the state to transition to a simpler primary system, something leaders of both state parties have indicated they support.
“We’re planning to get something rolled out next week to say that we support the idea of a presidential primary,” Steve House, the Colorado GOP chairman, told The Hill on Friday afternoon after meeting with leadership in both parties in the state legislature.
House indicated earlier this week that he was receiving death threats from Trump supporters angry over the delegate results, fielding around 50 calls per hour. Nearly a week after the convention, he says his phone “has never stopped blowing up.”
Regarding Friday’s protest, the party chairman said he was glad people had “woken up and decided that they need to invest in the process and protest against the parts they don’t like.”
“If you want to get something done, come to the table with ideas and respect and let’s have a conversation,” House said, insisting that the party didn’t change any rules and that the Cruz campaign was simply more strategic in locking up delegates.
Behrens, the protest organizer, said she wanted to bring attention to the “mess” at her own local caucus and others, and voiced surprise at Cruz picking up all the delegates.
Trump is bracing for a similar outcome in Wyoming, which holds its convention Saturday. Cruz is expected to sweep up more delegates there in his bid to deny Trump the necessary 1,237, forcing a contested convention.
The protest in Colorado could signal some of what’s to come for the party this summer, with allies of Trump seeking to gin up enthusiasm among supporters to come out in droves in Cleveland in July in a show of support.
Speculation about turmoil at the convention is being stoked by Trump allies who fear an outside figure may emerge in multiple rounds of balloting as the nominee.
— Steve Staeger (@SteveStaeger) April 15, 2016
Behrens said she spent 30 minutes last weekend setting up a Facebook page to organize Friday’s protest. She reached out to the Trump campaign over email and phone around Wednesday but said she wasn’t able to get in touch.
Still, Trump highlighted the protest on his Twitter account late Wednesday, describing the situation in Colorado as the “biggest story in politics” and calling on supporters to not “let the bosses take your vote!”
— Megan Verlee (@CPRverlee) April 15, 2016
Trump ratcheted up his criticism Thursday with a Wall Street Journal op-ed accusing party leaders of “canceling the vote” in Colorado, forcing the party to release a detailed memo explaining that the rules were established last fall.