Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cancelled a signature rally yesterday, citing safety concerns after protesters packed the arena.
The announcement led a large portion of the crowd inside the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion to begin jumping up and down and raucous cheering.
“Trump represents everything America is not and everything Chicago is not,” said Kamran Siddiqui, 20, a student at the school. “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.”
Supporters chanted: “We want Trump! We want Trump!” and there were physical confrontations. Chicago police said five people were arrested.
“It’s a shame,” said Trump supporter Bill Tail, 43. “They scream about tolerance, but are being intolerant themselves.”
As Trump attempts to unify a fractured Republican Party ahead of next week’s primary elections, confrontations between supporters and protesters who accuse him of stoking racial hatred have become increasingly fraught.
A North Carolina man was arrested after video footage showed him punching an African-American protester being led out of a Trump rally in that state on Wednesday. At Trump’s rally Friday in St Louis, he was repeatedly interrupted by protesters. Police charged nearly three dozen people with general peace disturbance and one with assault.
Ted Cruz, second in delegates to Trump in the Republican race, said the billionaire has created “an environment that encourages this sort of nasty discourse.”
After postponing his event in Chicago, Trump said he didn’t “want to see people hurt or worse” at the rally.
But Chicago police had not recommended Trump cancel the rally. Trump said the anger wasn’t directed at him or his campaign, but a manifestation of the public’s deep frustration with economic conditions in the country.
“Our businesses are being taken away from us, our businesses are being moved out of the country,” Trump said on Fox News. “This is a demonstration against economic conditions on both sides.”
But many of the protesters said they were there to specifically to stop Trump from speaking.
“Our country is not going to make it being divided by the views of Donald Trump,” said Jermaine Hodge, a 37-year-old Chicago resident who owns a trucking company. “Our country is divided enough. Donald Trump, he’s preaching hate. He’s preaching division.”
Dozens of University of Illinois at Chicago faculty and staff had petitioned university administrators earlier in the week to cancel the rally, citing concerns it would create a “hostile and physically dangerous environment” for students.