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Trump Cancels Chicago Rally After Protests Erupt


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block, in for Scott Simon. Donald Trump has held his first rally following last night's chaotic scene in Chicago when his supporters clashed violently with protesters. Speaking in Dayton, Ohio, today, Trump called that protest a planned attack, and he defended himself and his backers.


DONALD TRUMP: We have a right to speak. I mean, we are law-abiding people. We're people that work very hard. We're people that have built this country and made this country great. And we're all together. And we want to get along with everybody, but when they have organized, professionally staged wise-guys, we've got to fight back. We've got to fight back.

BLOCK: Trump's canceled yesterday's rally, citing concerns about safety, and that left a crowd of thousands of supporters and protesters on the street outside. We'll hear reaction from Trump's rivals in a moment. First, to Chicago and Tony Arnold of WBEZ. He was at last night's event and has this report.

TONY ARNOLD, BYLINE: There was a still more than an hour before Trump was even supposed to take the microphone, and already, demonstrators were being escorted out. From the looks of it, the early demonstrators, maybe three or four young men, wore shirts that looked like they read Muslims United Against Trump. But then it just kept happening. Some people wore Black Lives Matter shirts. Another person flew the Mexican flag. And one by one, police were singling out people to remove. It happened so many times there was an announcement over the PA system.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We have provided a safe protest area outside the venue for all protesters. If a protester starts demonstrating in the area around you, please do not touch or harm the protester. This is a peaceful rally.

ARNOLD: But it was not peaceful. The room was clearly divided. Many young Trump supporters were on the floor of the arena, and a lot of the demonstrators were sitting together in a specific seating area toward the back with security between the two groups. One person would shove another one, and police would remove them. Demonstrators would start a vulgar chant, and the other side would throw stuff at them. And again, all of this was before the speech was even supposed to begin. Eventually, more than 30 minutes after Trump was supposed to start talking, another announcement was made.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with 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 day.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Thank you very much for your attendance, and please go in peace.

ARNOLD: But once again, the announcement did nothing to calm the crowd down. Stunned Trump supporters were angry. They said their candidate had been denied his right to free speech at his own rally. Here's Steve Schwartz.

STEVE SCHWARTZ: I'm upset about these protesters coming in here and crashing our party. This is our party. This is not their party. They were not invited here. They crashed it. Very inappropriate, very low class, and it just goes to show what kind of class some of these people have over here.

ARNOLD: And many of the protesters had no remorse. One called Trump a coward for not showing up. And Christina Sigers, who I met once everyone from both sides had been kicked out of the arena, she was happy the speech was canceled.

CHRISTINA SIGERS: I don't care. I don't feel sympathy for them. I mean, Trump is - he's racist. He says a lot of rude things to people. So for him to expect that we wouldn't protest, like, all the evil things he's said, like, it's stupid. Of course we're going to protest 'cause if he has the right to talk, so do we.

ARNOLD: At this point, protesters lined the streets outside the arena. Police had them standing behind blockades to clear the road. And Trump supporters were trying to leave the parking garage next door. There was still one more confrontation between the two sides. As Trump supporters drove quickly by, many people on both sides taunted each other with some more words and gestures. For NPR News, I'm Tony Arnold in Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As a general assignment reporter at WBEZ, Tony covers breaking news, politics, criminal justice, business and everything in between.
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