Donald Trump postponed his Friday night rally in Chicago because of “growing safety concerns” created by thousands of protesters inside and outside of the University of Illinois arena hosting the event.
The Republican front-runner’s rallies have become increasingly violent in the past two weeks, and Trump’s remarks are often interrupted by protesters denouncing his controversial stances, especially those on immigration and the treatment of Muslims. But Trump has never had to cancel a rally because of the threat of protesters.
At about 6:35 p.m. Central time, an announcer told the crowd of at least 9,000 that Trump had arrived in Chicago but decided to postpone the event because of security concerns. The protesters burst into cheers and chants of: “We stopped Trump!” Others chanted the first name of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
The Trump campaign released a statement that said: “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.”
Several of the celebrating protesters clashed with Trump supporters who were disappointed that the event was canceled. Shoving matches broke out, and security struggled to break up one altercation before another started. After the event, the crowds moved outside the arena.
Even before Trump’s rally in Chicago started on Friday night, numerous nasty verbal altercations broke out throughout the crowd. An entire section of the arena appeared to be filled with protesters but police and security working the event only removed protesters who were disruptive, like a black man and a young Latino man who screamed at Trump supporters and flipped them off. Others ripped up signs.
A spokesman for the Chicago police said that there were no reported arrests as of shortly before 7:30 p.m. local time.
The spokesman said the department would not release the number of officers who were deployed to the speech or responding to the crowds of people gathered on the street after. Live footage from the scene showed numerous police officers inside the arena as well as lining the streets outside among the protesters who remained after the event was canceled, crowding streets and sidewalks.
Trump later called into MSNBC and said on the air that he did “the right thing” by canceling his rally in Chicago.
“You can’t even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence,” Trump said. “I didn’t want to see the real violence, and that’s why I decided to call it off.”
Trump added, “You have so much anger in the country — it’s just anger in the country, and I don’t think it’s directed at me or anything. It’s just directed at what’s been going on for years.”
In an interview with anchor Chris Matthews, Trump was defensive and argued that the anger boiling over at his rallies had been building for years and was not spurred by his campaign alone.
“We have a very divided country,” Trump said. “We have a country that’s so divided that maybe even you don’t understand it. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
When Matthews asked whether he would tell his supporters not to engage with protesters, Trump said he wanted them to leave the Chicago arena peacefully.
“I don’t want to see people hurt or worse,” he said.
Sanders, en route from Toledo, Ohio, to Chicago to address a rally of his own, expressed concern over the incident.
“I hope that we are not in a moment in American history where people are going to be intimidated and roughed up and frightened about going to a political rally. … I hope Mr. Trump speaks out forcefully and tells his supporters that that is not what the American political process is about.” (Courtesy The Washington Post)