Two rallies on behalf of Republican front-runner Donald Trump were derailed on Friday evening, after violence broke out in St. Louis, Missouri, and protesters took over a would-be rally in Chicago, Illinois. Ted Cruz hit The Donald on such violence, saying his campaign bears some responsibility for encouraging it.
“A campaign bears responsibility for creating an environment when the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence,” Cruz declared on Fox News’s The Kelly File Friday night.
Signs of trouble started at 8 a.m. in St. Louis. A “seemingly endless” line stretched for blocks and blocks, for an event that started at 1 p.m.
Trump rally. Literally the longest line I’ve ever seen. pic.twitter.com/eQlRFk2x24
— Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) March 11, 2016
A surreal kind of street civil war broke out before the rally, with high levels of anger on both sides.
Shortly after Trump began to speak at around 1:20 p.m., a protester yelled, and The Donald asked for him to be escorted out. “Get him out of here! Get him out,” Trump declared, to raucous applause. At one point, about a dozen protesters shut down the speech for 10 minutes, according to the Riverfront Times.
“Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long [to kick protesters out] is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” Trump said. “There used to be consequences. There are none anymore.” Comments like these may incite more violence, but do not lack a ring of truth.
Trump added, “I want to thank the police, the police do a great job,” in escorting protesters out.
‘He’s all mouth, get him out’: protester escorted out of Trump rally https://t.co/eRdV4QciUo
— Globalnews.ca (@globalnews) March 11, 2016
But the police had more work to do. At least one man was beaten and bloodied outside the rally.
Police reported that there were 32 arrests at the rally, and this was just the beginning.
JUST IN: St. Louis police say there were 32 arrests at Donald Trump’s rally today. One for assault and 31 for general peace disturbance.
— Rob Edwards (@RobertDEdwards) March 11, 2016
Trump had another rally planned for Friday night, at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, but he cancelled it due to safety concerns. The announcement that The Donald had postponed the rally led a large portion of the crowd to break into raucous cheering, the Associated Press (AP) reported:
Protesters ran onto the floor, jumping up and down with their arms in the air. “Trump represents everything America is not and everything Chicago is not,” student Kamran Siddiqui, 20, told the AP. “We came in here and we wanted to shut this down. Because this is a great city and we don’t want to let that person in here.”
In response, supporters of the real estate tycoon started cheering, “We want Trump! We want Trump!” Some physical confrontations followed, but Chicago police said there were no immediate arrests.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 12, 2016
“It’s a shame,” Trump supporter Bill Tail told the AP. “They scream about tolerance, but are being intolerant themselves, that doesn’t make sense.”
Next Page: Response from Cruz, Trump, and even Obama?
International Business Times reported that Obama called the violence surrounding Trump’s rallies a “distillation of what’s been happening in their party for more than a decade.” While Obama’s remarks did follow the reports of Trump’s rally in St. Louis, the news did not catch steam until after the Chicago announcement. The Texas Tribune report quoting Obama reveals that the president was discussing the Trump phenomenon in general at his Austin fundraiser, rather than this event in particular.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 12, 2016
Cruz did attack Trump in this vein, however. Here are his remarks on MSNBC:
Earlier today, over thirty people were arrested in one rally, and then tonight, as violence broke out, another rally was cancelled altogether. Now, the responsibility for that lies with protesters who took violence into their own hands, but in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. Any candidate is responsible for the culture of the campaign….And when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence…you create an environment that encourages this kind of nasty discord.
Trump himself told CNN that he didn’t condone the violence:
Twitter erupted with cries of support for protesters and Trump backers in Chicago, with “Chicago,” “#TrumpRally,” and “Go Chicago” trending throughout the night. Some commentators are predicting this will only charge Trump’s campaign, but Cruz comes off as the bigger man tonight. We will have answers on whether these events hurt or help The Donald next Tuesday.