[guest post by Dana]
A Trump rally scheduled for tonight on the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion was cancelled due to safety concerns resulting from clashes between protesters and supporters, both inside and outside of the arena. The campaign released this statement:
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. Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace.
But a spokesman for the Chicago Police Dept. said, not exactly:
CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tells The Associated Press that the department never told the Trump campaign there was a security threat at the University of Illinois at Chicago venue. He said the department had sufficient manpower on the scene to handle any situation.
Guglielmi says the university’s police department also did not recommend that Trump call off the event. He says the decision was made “independently” by the campaign.
After the Chicago PD released the clarification, Trump still claimed law enforcement had advised him to cancel:
“I think I did the right thing. You know, I came here and met with law enforcement, and I said ‘What do you think?’ They were very professional. They said, ‘It would be better not to do it, because if you do it tonight, you could have a clash and people could get hurt.’ I did not want to see people get hurt.
He continued to double-down on his claim:
“We met with security and the law enforcement, who I think did a terrific job, and they told me it’d be best not to go in and do the speech,” Trump reiterated in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
When asked again by Hannity on whether law enforcement motivated his decision, Trump again responded affirmatively.
I guess it’s easier to blame the authorities rather than having to admit to being a “disgrace” and “weak” for allowing a group of protesters to take over, right?
But what struck me as a bit ironic was Donald Trump complaining about being denied his First Amendment right to speak tonight:
“And we made a decision, even though our freedom of speech was violated totally.
Because you know, nobody is a bigger champion of the First Amendment than Donald Trump:
This has nothing to do with free speech – this is taunting, and all it does is cause trouble.”
“She should be much more responsible because what she’s doing is completely irresponsible!”
“She’s a person that is doing this for her own purpose and she’s doing a terrible thing for our country!“
“…if she went after, instead, JESUS, instead of the Muslim, went after JESUS, let’s see how long she’d last! If she went after the African-Americans, and went after the N-WORD, where she was positive on it as opposed to… let’s SEE how long she would last! That would also be freedom of speech! Let’s see if she has the guts to do that. …
All she’s doing, she is a provacateur! All she doing is provoking and taunting people!!”
And let’s not forget Trump’s other crusade to protect the First Amendment.
It’s utterly amazing that the leading GOP candidate, whose campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again,” has no real respect for that which has already made America extraordinarily great, unless it’s his speech being stifled.
And about whether his inflammatory rhetoric on the campaign trail may have played a part in tonight’s protests?:
“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.”
From his own campaign event 30 miles away (where no brawling was reported), Ted Cruz weighed in about Trump, and tonight’s turn of events:
“In any campaign, responsibility starts at the top,” Cruz told reporters in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
“When you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence,” he continued, “you create an environment that only encourages that sort of nasty discourse.”
“When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that is escalates. Today is unlikely to be the last such incidence.”