After altercations in several cities on the campaign trail, Republican front-runner Donald Trump canceled his rally in Chicago Friday night, saying that he “didn’t want to see anybody hurt.”
Trump was slated to speak at the University of Illinois at Chicago just west of downtown Chicago, but thousands of protesters gathered inside and outside the area, sometimes getting into confrontations with Trump supporters.
A large group opposing Trump taunted those entering the stadium with shouts of “Donald Trump has got to go” (and worse), holding caricatures of Trump as a fascist with a Hitler mustache and even one of him as a baby with female genitalia.
When the cancellation announcement was made, the protesters, who filled several sections of the arena, let out an elated cheer, according to the New York Times. Trumps’ many supporters were visibly stunned and some angry, getting into short physical confrontations with protesters, some of which were captured on video and replayed continuously on news stations last night.
Trump called into CNN Tonight With Don Lemon several hours after the rally and had some interesting things to say about why the clashes took place—none of it because of his words or tone.
He repeatedly mentioned young African Americans, saying their dissatisfaction with him is about the economy, although it should be noted that many, if not most, of the protesters Friday night were Mexican American or from Central America, populations that have high concentrations in Chicago.
“I think we made a wise decision to cancel; even though our freedom of speech was violated totally, we made a decision not to go forward. I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Trump began via phone to CNN. “I think this is a divided country, and it’s divided among many different groups, and frankly it’s terrible. A lot of people are upset because they haven’t had a salary increase in 12 years. Our jobs are being taken away, our jobs are being sent to Mexico and other places, and our real unemployment rate is probably closer to 25 percent.
“I think it’s largely economic. I mean, if you look at African-American youth, they have a 59 percent unemployment rate, and I think it’s a largely economic problem,” he added.
And, of course, Trump being Trump, he said that he was not responsible for the violence at the rally, even though some of his rhetoric on the campaign trail has called for protesters to be “taken out in stretchers.”
“Well, I hope my tone is not causing violence, because my basic tone is that of securing our borders and that of having a country of bringing our jobs back, of bringing manufacturing back, and our African American youth, who have a 59 percent unemployment rate; and I will say we’ve had tremendous success with people. I mean, it’s a love fest in the rallies themselves.”
All of the presidential candidates weighed in last night, condemning the violence and largely blaming Trump, including Marco Rubio, John Kasich and, especially, Ted Cruz.
“In any campaign, responsibility starts at the top,” said Cruz, according to the Times. “And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.”
Black Twitter also got in on the action, obviously thrilled with the results of the canceled rally, tweeting under the hashtag #TrumpRally, giving props to Chicago, and sharing videos of protesters jumping up and down, chanting, “We gon’ be all right!”
No. I love Chicago MORE! https://t.co/RerPjMdClT
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) March 12, 2016
A Chicago police spokesman said that city law-enforcement authorities were not consulted and had no role in canceling the event. The spokesman said that there had been five arrests—two by Chicago police, two by the university police and one by the Illinois State Police, according to the Times. The Chicago Fire Department said that three people, including a police officer, were injured.