With thousands of people already packed into stands and music blaring to warm up the crowd, Donald J. Trump’s campaign abruptly canceled his rally here on Friday night over security concerns as protesters clashed with his supporters inside an arena where he was to speak.
Minutes after Mr. Trump was to have taken to a podium on the campus of a large, diverse public university just west of downtown, an announcer suddenly pronounced the event over before it had begun. Hundreds of protesters, who had promised to be a visible presence here and filled several sections of the arena, let out an elated, unstopping cheer. Mr. Trump’s supporters, many of whom had waited hours to see the Republican front-runner, seemed stunned and slowly filed out in anger.
The canceled rally came on a day that Mr. Trump sought to move past the primary fight, saying that the party needed to come together behind him.
Elsewhere, Mr. Trump’s security has tried to identify and exclude potential demonstrators before they enter his events, but large groups of protesters had waited in line for seats here, and engaged in tense disputes with Trump supporters even as the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion was still filling up. For more than an hour before the event was to begin, security teams led protesters out, one by one, but many more remained, sparring with Trump supporters.
In a statement, Mr. Trump’s campaign said:
“Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago, and after meeting law enforcement, has determined that for the safety of all the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena tonight’s rally will be postponed until another date,” the man said from a podium. “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 shit down” and “We stumped Trump.” Others chanted “Bernie” as supporters whipped out Bernie Sanders campaign signs.
On MSNBC, Mr. Trump said that after meeting with the law enforcement authorities, “I felt it was just safer. I don’t want to see anybody get hurt.” and again during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity after the event cancellation, Trump stood by his campaign’s statement that they chose to cancel a Chicago rally Friday night at the recommendation of the Chicago Police Department:
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.
Unfortunately for Trump the Chicago police spokesperson says there were no meetings between police and the Trump campaign about security:
CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Associated Press that police never told the Trump campaign there was a security threat at the venue. He said the department had sufficient manpower on the scene to handle any situation. Guglielmi said the university’s police department also did not recommend that Trump call off the event. The decision was made “independently” by the campaign, according to Guglielmi.
Trump also accused Bernie Sanders’ supporters of sowing unrest at the event. Fox News and other right-wing media jumped on this and blamed Sanders for the protest. Watching the video it is obvious there was a handful of protesters on the first floor that started chanting “Bernie” but there is zero evidence Sanders orchestrated the protest. The more likely scenario was the racist and xenophobic Trump had his first rally at a liberally leaning city which resulted in a semi-organized pushback.
Moveon.org claimed partial responsibility for mobilizing protesters.