Trump supporters, protesters clash after Chicago rally postponed

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By Jeremy Diamond and Theodore Schleifer

CNN

CHICAGO (CNN) -- Donald Trump's campaign on Friday postponed a rally in Chicago amid fights between supporters and demonstrators, protests in the streets and concerns that the environment at the event was no longer safe.

The announcement, which came amid large protests both inside and outside the event at The University of Illinois, comes amid heightened concerns about violence at the GOP front-runner's rallies and four days before Illinois holds its Republican primary.

Hundreds of demonstrators packed into an arena, breaking out into protest even before Trump had showed up. At least five sections in the arena were filled with protesters.

"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," the Trump campaign said in a statement. "Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace."

Several fistfights between Trump supporters and protesters could be seen after the announcement, as a large contingent of Chicago police officers moved in to restore order.

Supporters of Trump still inside chanted "We want Trump" after the event was canceled. Protesters, meanwhile, shouted "We shut s*** down" and "We stumped Trump." Others chanted "Bernie" as supporters whipped out Bernie Sanders campaign signs.

Some protesters were being detained and forcefully carried out.

Maria Hernandez, a 25-year-old community organizer, broke out into dance as a Trump campaign staffer announced that the rally had been canceled.

"I've never been more proud of my city," Hernandez told CNN.

Hernandez, who came out to protest Trump, said the Republican front-runner's immigration policies, as well as racial divisions in her city, pushed her to show up and protest Trump's planned event.

"I'm protesting because I'm black and Mexican and I'm not sure where he wants to deport me to, but I deal with racism daily in Chicago and I've had enough," she said.

One Trump supporter said he was "disappointed" that the event was postponed.

"Protesters have won now," Marlin Patrick, 55, told CNN. "We just feel as if the protesters have taken over."

Debi Patrick, a 53-year-old Trump supporter who lives outside Chicago, said there should have been more security planned for the event, but said she didn't blame Trump for the atmosphere at the rallies, saying people are responsible for their own behavior. Asked if she would still vote for Trump on Tuesday, she said, "Absolutely, more than ever."

But, Patrick said, "This is scaring the hell out of me, trying to leave here."

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told CNN that there were no reports of injuries or arrests at the event. He added that attendees were exiting the rally and appeared to be civil.

Guglielmi added that the decision to postpone the event was not made by Chicago police.

A crowd of protesters outside the rally site had been steadily growing throughout the afternoon. Earlier Friday, 32 people were arrested in protests both inside and outside Trump's rally at the Peabody Opera House in St. Louis, police said. Thirty-one people were charged with disturbing the peace, and one was charged with third-degree assault. St. Louis police declined to provide further details.

Protests spill into streets

Soon after the event was postponed, scores of protesters -- a racial mixture of whites and blacks, Hispanics and Asians -- spilled out into the streets near the university, which is located in the city's downtown.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside a parking garage adjacent to the arena, where police set up a human barricade to allow supporters to go to their cars and leave. More than a dozen police officers on horseback were there.

"Let's go, let's go," one Chicago police officer told Trump supporters in a truck. "Go home."

One supporter, who didn't give his name as he drove out, said the situation was dangerous and that he felt unsafe as protesters shouted at his car.

At one point, a man on the third floor of the garage leaned over the edge and shouted at protesters, "I don't support Trump."

A protester responded, "You f***ing neo-Nazi prick, come down here."

Aureliano Rivas, 18, a Mexican-American high school student from Chicago, told CNN he was protesting because "we have to stand our ground."

"We shouldn't let racism happen like this," said Rivas, who was shouting "F*** Trump" as Trump supporters drove out of the garage. In response, Rivas said, supporters were flipping him off.

Asked what he would tell a Trump supporter, Rivas said, "This is wrong. You shouldn't support someone who is racist."

Trump responds

Speaking to MSNBC's Chris Matthews after the event, Trump said he deplored the violence and said it signaled something broader about society.

"You can't even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence. And I didn't want to see the real violence, and that's why we called it off," Trump said.

Trump said he recognized that both sides were angry, but was largely unsympathetic to the protesters' concerns.

"You have people that are very, very upset about what's happening with our country as a country, and you have other people who don't just feel right about things," Trump said.

Later, as protests outside the arena continued, Trump tweeted that he had "just got off phone with the great people of Guam," which holds a Republican convention on Saturday to elect delegates.

"I just got off the phone with the great people of Guam! Thank you for your support! #VoteTrump today! #Trump2016."

Heightened tensions at rallies

Protests and racial tensions have recently escalated at Trump rallies. On Thursday, a man attending a Trump rally this week was charged with assault after he allegedly sucker-punched a black protester being led out of a Trump event.

Last fall, Trump said a Black Lives Matter protester maybe "should have been roughed up." And despite an announcement at the start of his rallies urging protesters not to be violent toward protesters, Trump in February urged his supporters to "knock the crap out of" anybody "getting ready to throw a tomato" and vowed to pay for their legal fees should they face charges.

"Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise," Trump said.

And Trump also said he personally wanted to punch a protester "in the face" during a rally in February.

But at CNN's Republican debate on Thursday, Trump insisted that he did not support violence at his events.

"I certainly do not condone that at all," Trump said, adding, "We have some protesters who are bad dudes. They have done bad things."

CNN's Mallory Thompson, Kristen Holmes, Noah Gray and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

11 comments

  • Brian

    Truly sad, the left is becoming so violent. If you do not agree with them in every way, they will make you agree. Kind of like obammer’s “justice” department, if you don’t agree with global warming, we will make you agree. The left has always been sick, but this is getting out of hand.

    • Are republicansjokinglol

      Please, if anything conservatives are getting dumber by the minute. I sometimes can’t believe Trump is leading… but then I see his supporters and I am not surprised. His surge in popularity is all thanks to uneducated Americans. Look it up, it’s a fact. (If you even care for those)

      • liberalssuck

        No republicans are not joking moron.The joke is in the white house and campaigning to be in the white house.
        I wasn’t a big trump supporter but now I am voting for him for SURE after seeing the left’s intolerance of freedom and free speech with they so strongly espouse.This is proof that when it comes right down to it you hypocrites dont’ mean ONE thing you say.The opposition to Trump is-

        FEAR
        Plain and simple

      • Bob

        Where do we “look it up”? I’m curious what your source is? Also, what is it you “see” in a Trump Supporter?

      • bob

        We’re not joking. We’re PUNISHING. We handed the GOP their biggest majorities since the 1920s (House) and the Civil War (Senate) and they betrayed us.

        Trump is a nuclear missile, and we’re pushing the button.

        You should be happy, libs. We’re burning the GOP to the ground.

  • Dave T

    Fear is the path to the dark side.
    Fear leads to anger.
    Anger leads to hate.
    Hate leads to suffering.

    You see those movie trailers, Washington is destroyed,
    then you leave the theater and realize, thank God it was NOT for real.
    At least not yet.

    Hate acts like real cancer
    It can metastasize distant places and
    you have no idea where it will so up.

    Hate also acts like our immune system.
    It attacks things that are “foreign” compared to us.
    Different race, language, political party
    That’s why the hate between the Rs and Ds.
    Conservatives and liberals.

    We had huge amount of hate in the 2000 election
    when the SC chose who be President.
    This hate Metastasized.
    Guess what happened 9 months later
    We had 911.

    Here we go again:
    This election is full of hate between candidates and parties.
    This hate is metastasizing once again.
    It is infecting our families, our communities, our whole nation, and the world.
    You will note the uptick in violent crime, how much is this due to
    the cancer of hate spreading by way of negative political ads and hateful talk radio?
    We continue our hate in our politics. I fear what is going to happen 9 months
    from now or even sooner. The 1st nuclear attack against us.

    We have ISIS, North Korea, Iran, China, Russia acting up
    more than ever. Could it be the hate we have in our politics is metastasizing
    around the world? Could it be the hate the world has is like our immune system?
    Our military is getting too close to their homeland and they want to attack it
    like that of the immune system. So give these countries more space by way of strict diplomacy. We will pull out of the Baltic States if you pull out of Ukraine.

    We say God bless this nation, but will this continue.
    The Bible does talk about hate and its consequences.
    (Just Google Bible hate verses) So please “Speak softly…” and be positive!

    “The only thing we have to Fear is fear itself.” For today’s times, replace the “fear”
    word to the “hate” word. We must not let hate bounce off of ourselves back into society.
    (I guess that is why they say turn the other cheek.)
    Otherwise the devil of hate will rule the world and that movie trailer
    will become for real. Pass it on. Hate versus Good will, Which side are you on?

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