Washington: Donald Trump was forced to cancel his campaign rally in Chicago after hundreds of people gathered at the arena to protest against his 'politics of hatred' and scuffled with his supporters in the largest-ever demonstration against the Republican presidential frontrunner.
Donald Trump. Pic/AFP
Trump initially delayed his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion last night but his campaign in a statement later announced that it was being postponed due to security concerns. This is one of the rarest of the rare occasions that a political rally has been cancelled due to protests.
"Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight's rally will be postponed to another date," his campaign said in a statement. "Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace," the campaign said and asked the participants at the rally go back home.
Thousands of people had gathered at the Trump's rally. Eyewitnesses said hundreds of Trump's protesters had entered the auditorium and said that they would oppose his rally. Chicago Police said no arrests were made. Heated argument and some violent exchanges were seen on television camera as almost all the news channels were showing the event live.
Ever since Trump started his campaign, his rallies have been attracting protests - mostly by a handful of people - who were being taken out of the venue. This was the largest-ever protest against the 69-year-old real estate tycoon who has made headlines over his
News channels said there were hundreds of protesters in not a few thousands of them who had gathered in large numbers against what they allege as the politics of hatred. Trump said protesters were between 2,000 to 3,000 and against some 25,000 of his supporters inside and outside the venue.
"Even though freedom of speeches is violated, I made the decision in conjunction with law enforcement not to do the rally. There were minor skirmishes, but no clash," Trump told CNN in an interview over phone. "I didn't want to see anybody get hurt," Trump said.
The billionaire businessman insisted that he could have held the rally. "I think we made the right move," he said. "I do not like seeing violence at all."
Asserting that his supporters are peaceful, Trump said he has "no regret" over what he has said during his campaign rallies. "It is a divided country. We have a very divided country. It is terrible," Trump said the protest was mainly due to the economic problem in the country.
Protesters cheered cancellation of the rally, according to The Chicago Tribune. "We stopped Trump," they chanted. "Overall, we have been very mild with protesters. Until today we never had much of a problem," Trump said and denied that this has anything to do with the tone of his speeches. "I hope that my tone is not causing that problem," he said in response to a question.
African-Americans have a 59 per cent unemployment rate. A day earlier, participating in the last Republican primary presidential debate had alleged that some of the protesters were bad people.
"We have some protesters who are bad dudes, they have done bad things. They are swinging, they are really dangerous and they get in there and they start hitting people," he said Thursday. "We had a couple big, strong, powerful guys doing damage to people, not only the loudness, the loudness I don't mind.
But doing serious damage. And if they've got to be taken out, to be honest, I mean, we have to run something," he said. Trump's rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio described the episode 'as a sad day' while blaming Trump's political discourse for creating an atmosphere of hatred and animosity. "It is a sad day. Political discourse should occur in this country without the threat of violence, without anger and rage and hatred directed at each other," Cruz told reporters in Chicago later in the night.
Responding to a question, Cruz blamed the protesters for the incident in Chicago but quickly added that in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. "When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that is escalates. Today is unlikely to be the last such incidence," Cruz said.
Rubio said the incident was 'very disturbing'. He added that the anti-Trump protest was organised and orchestrated efforts on part of those who wanted to disrupt the event. Chicago is a hub for this kind of activity, he said. Trump, he alleged, "bears some responsibility" for the general tone and some of the other things that have happened at his events including people being punched at face.
"We are entering very disturbing moment in our political discourse in the country that is reaching a boiling point, which I believe has a very significant repercussion not only for this election but also for the future of the country," Rubio told Fox News. At the same time, Rubio alleged some of the protesters were paid to do this.
"It is sad. Clearly there is some level of racial and ethnic divide on how this is playing on television. It reflects very poorly on our country. I am very sad for our country," he said.
Rubio said there is significant frustration and anger among people on the direction in the country. "People are upset. They are angry," he said. "We are entering a kind of disturbing moment in our political discourse in this country that is reaching a boiling point that I believe has very significant repercussions, not just for this election, but for the future of this country. I mean, we are being ripped apart at the seams as a nation and as a people right now," Rubio said. "I wouldn't say Mr. Trump is responsible for the events of tonight, but he most certainly in other events has in the past used some pretty rough language and encouraging the crowd, saying things like, "in the good old days we used to beat these people up, or I'll pay your legal bill if you rough them up". "So I think he bears some responsibility for the general tone for the things happening," he said.
Governor John Kasich, another Republican presidential candidate, in a late night statement blamed Trump for the atmosphere. "Tonight, the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly," he said. "Some let their opposition to his views slip beyond protest into violence, but we can never let that happen. I urge people to resist that temptation and rise to a higher level," he said.
"Now is the time for Americans to come together and stand firm for what we know is true: we are great because we are a peaceful people who live by the rule of law. We are stronger together, we will reject those who try to divide us for personal gain and we will do it the right way at the ballot box," Kasich said.