Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump canceled his Friday night rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, citing security concerns as thousands of protesters gathered outside and mixed with supporters inside.
Trump, speaking to MSNBC, said he thought it was a better idea to call off the rally than to "let people mix it up."
"I didn't want to see anybody get hurt," said Trump, who insisted he could have held the rally. "I think we made the right move."
Trump said he "can't even have a rally in a major city anymore," while suggesting the images from the protest broadcast nationally could lead to higher voter turnout Tuesday, when Illinois, Florida and Ohio have primary elections.
The candidate's shift in tone was a change from an earlier rally Friday in St. Louis, when Trump continued to taunt those who interrupt his events while promising that police and security would be "gentle" as they removed them.
"They're allowed to get up and interrupt us horribly and we have to be very, very gentle," Trump said in response to one of nearly a dozen interruptions as he spoke in St. Louis at the regal Peabody Opera House. "They can swing and hit people, but if we hit them back it's a terrible, terrible thing, right?"
The Secret Service in Chicago had no comment and an agent referred all inquiries to the Trump campaign.
In Chicago, more than 30 minutes after the event was scheduled to begin, a voice came over the sound system informing the thousands in attendance that the event had been postponed due to "security concerns." Trump's campaign later released a statement saying the event had been canceled "for the safety of all."
Protesters inside the arena cheered. "We stopped Trump," they chanted.
Veronica Kowalkowsky, an 18-year-old Trump supporter, said before the event started that she had no ill will toward the protesters — but didn't think they felt the same way.
"I feel a lot of hate," she said. "I haven't said anything bad to anyone."
Protesters at the rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rushed the arena floor in jubilant celebration after the announcement that he was calling off the event due to security concerns.
Many jumped up and down, with arms up in the air, shouting "F--- Trump!" ''Bernie! Bernie!" and "We stopped Trump!"
Kamran Siddiqui is a 20-year-old student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the event was to take place.
He says: "Trump represents everything America is not and everything Chicago is not. 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."
Siddiqui says he's a supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He says it "feels amazing" to have stopped Trump from speaking at his own rally.
He adds: "Everybody came together. That's what people can do. Now people got to go out and vote because we have the opportunity to stop Trump."
Hours before the event was scheduled to start, hundreds of people lined up outside the arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago — a civil and immigrant rights organizing hub with large minority student populations.Trump backers were separated from an equally large crowd of anti-Trump protesters by a heavy police presence and barricades.
Some Trump supporters walking into the area chanted, "USA! USA!" and "Illegal is illegal." One demonstrator shouted back, "Racist!"
One protester, 64-year-old Dede Rottman of Chicago, carried a placard that read: "Build a Wall Around Trump. I'll Pay for it."
[...]Chicago community activist Quo Vadis said hundreds of protesters had positioned themselves in groups around the arena, and that they intend to demonstrate right after Trump takes the stage. Their goal, he said, is "for Donald to take the stage and to completely interrupt him. The plan is to shut Donald Trump all the way down."
These people are complete lunatics who don't give a sh*t about free speech.
As Trump said about the protesters who interrupted his previous speech a few hours earlier in St. Louis, "These are not good people, just so you understand."
"These are not the people who made our country great. These are the people that are destroying our country."
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