Cities across the U.S. are discovering that a visit from Donald Trump isn’t cheap. The presumptive Republican nominee kicked off his California campaign on April 28 at the Pacific Amphitheatre in the Orange County suburb of Costa Mesa, south of Los Angeles. Anti-Trump protesters outside turned violent, blocking a freeway on-ramp and trying to overturn a police cruiser. The night ended with 17 arrests, five damaged police vehicles—and a $30,000 bill for the city.
Officials sent a bill to Trump’s campaign for $15,000 to cover police overtime, hoping to recoup the remaining property damage costs from people who were arrested. “It’s a venue where politicians typically come, and it’s literally never been an issue,” says city spokesman Tony Dodero.
Costa Mesa isn’t the only city that’s been hit with costs because of Trump’s unconventional campaign. Rallies in Albuquerque and San Jose ended with violent clashes between Trump backers and protesters, unheard of in any presidential campaign since George Wallace’s in 1968 and 1972.
Will Clark, captain of police operations in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, sent the campaign a bill for $4,752 on May 2 to reimburse his department for the overtime and extra staffing after an evening rally in late April at the Mohegan Sun Arena. “Obviously, if we don’t receive payment, then it’s going to fall on the taxpayers here,” he says.
Neither Costa Mesa nor Wilkes-Barre has yet been reimbursed. Nor has Eugene, Oregon, which the Associated Press reported has billed the campaign for $92,300 in extra staff costs and overtime for firefighters and police assigned to Trump’s May 6 rally there.
There is a formal process for submitting such requests, but campaigns are under no obligation to help cities defray the ancillary costs of hosting campaign events. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks says the campaign pays for security inside venues, but following standard protocol leaves U.S. Secret Service and municipal or county law enforcement to coordinate on handling crowds outside. Officials in Cleveland, which will host the Republican National Convention starting on July 18, are also preparing for protests, but the federal government will cover as much as $50 million in security costs for both the GOP gathering and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia later in July. Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not respond to questions about whether it had been billed.
Law enforcement officials say the Trump campaign’s habit of overpromising rally seats, which creates long lines at its events, exacerbates costs. In Eau Claire, a central Wisconsin city of 67,000, Trump held a rally at the local high school, the town’s largest venue, which holds 1,800. According to Deputy Police Chief Matt Rokus, the campaign distributed more than 6,000 tickets before the event, leaving thousands of supporters outside, where they faced anti-Trump protesters. “Duh, there’s going to be a problem,” he says. “You got a bunch of people who drove hours to get there thinking they had a seat.”
Trump’s event cost Eau Claire $33,819 for extra staff, police overtime, and traffic directors, Rokus says. Rallies the same day held by Clinton and Bernie Sanders required no extra resources, he says.
Ninety miles to the south, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Mayor Tim Kabat tells a similar story. A Clinton visit, held at a local technical college, required so little security that the town didn’t register any extra costs, while a 1,500-person Trump event at the local civic center cost La Crosse $15,918 in police overtime fees. Unlike other cities, La Crosse has been compensated by the Trump campaign. On May 28, Trump for President sent a check covering 100 percent of its public safety costs for the rally. Kabat was pleasantly surprised: “I have to say, I did a double take when we got that.”
—With assistance from Jennifer Epstein.