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 at Chicago, follows heightened concerns about violence in general at the GOP front-runner’s rallies. Illinois holds its Republican primary on Tuesday.
Hundreds of demonstrators packed into an arena, breaking out into protest even before Trump had shown 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.
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“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.”
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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.”
Donald Trump speaks out after clashes
Donald Trump speaks out after clashes 02:35
“Until today, we’ve never had much of a problem,” Trump later told CNN’s Don Lemon. Asked if he had any regrets about the charged rhetoric at his rallies, Trump was defiant.
“I don’t have regrets,” Trump said. “These were very, very bad protesters. These were bad dudes. They were rough, tough guys.”
Authorities made five arrests, said Chicago Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante. One of those arrested was Sopan Deb, a CBS reporter covering the Trump campaign.
Two officers suffered injuries, he said. One was hit in the head with a bottle.
Some 300 officers were on hand for crowd control, according to Escalante. The Trump campaign didn’t consult with authorities before calling the event off, he said.
The Chicago Police Department was “confident” they could provide adequate security to protect Trump, his supporters and protesters, Escalante said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised officers’ effort under difficult circumstances.
“For all of us who cherish the ideals upon which our country was founded, the hateful, divisive rhetoric that pits Americans against each other demeans our democratic values and diminishes our democratic process,” he said in a statement.
“I want to thank the men and women of the Chicago Police Department for their hard work tonight in unexpected circumstances, and their continued commitment to protecting people’s first amendment rights.”
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.