Chicago is once again in the national spotlight. This time, the city is making headlines over a protest that led to the cancellation of Donald Trump’s campaign rally at the UIC Pavilion. Progress Illinois analyzes the day’s developments and its possible long-term implications.
It appears to have been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Between the disrupted campaign rally in St. Louis, canceled event in Chicago and release of video showing his campaign manager, Corey Lawandowski, manhandling Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, which the candidate vehemently denied as recently as late last night, one could easily surmise that today was not the best of days for the Trump camp.
Chicago was once again in the glare of the national spotlight Friday night as protesters, who made their plans known a week ago when Trump announced that he was coming to the city, showed up to the UIC Pavilion en masse to rally against the GOP frontrunner.
The campaign event was eventually canceled for “safety” reasons, with Trump telling numerous media outlets that the Chicago Police Department advised him to cancel the rally.
“I guess we had 25,000 requests for tickets from supporters, and they were filling and you had a group of people on the other side and I left, you know, after meeting with law enforcement, we met with them for about a half an hour today,” Trump told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.
“I felt that it was just safer, I don’t want to see anybody get hurt. And so far it seems to be working that way, but I felt it was much better to cancel, rather than allow this stuff … We announced that for security reasons we were going to cancel it, we’ll postpone it and come back some other time,” he continued.
The problem is the CPD is vehemently denying those claims, as is University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) police. Both law enforcement agencies say they did not advise the Trump campaign to cancel the event or consult with the camp about potential security concerns. Perhaps the law enforcement Trump is speaking of involves the secret service or state police, which were also present at the pavilion on Friday, but the claims have left some people scratching their heads.
Trump also apparently never even made it to the venue, which was seemingly confirmed by the language used in announcing the event’s cancellation.
“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. Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace,” the gentleman who made the cancellation announcement told the crowd.
Protesters roared in celebration upon hearing the news, and shortly thereafter tensions between Trump supporters and detractors bubbled over, resulting in numerous scuffles and attempts to take the podium.
A total of five people were arrested Friday night, according to Chicago police news affairs, and two protesters are in their custody. Illinois state police arrested one person and UIC officers brought in two others.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement in response to the headline-grabbing protest.
“For all of us who cherish the ideals upon which our country was founded, the hateful, divisive rhetoric that pits Americans against each other demeans our democratic values and diminishes our democratic process,” the mayor said. “I want to thank the men and women of the Chicago Police Department for their hard work tonight in unexpected circumstances, and their continued commitment to protecting people’s first amendment rights.”
Trump supporters voiced their frustration with the cancellation, saying the candidate was the one who was robbed of his First Amendment rights.
“I’m upset because we didn’t get to hear someone speak, and that person was denied his right to freedom of speech, because it was interrupted by people who were intimidating, harassing and creating community unrest” inside the pavilion, Christopher, a rally attendee told Progress Illinois. (Click through for our on-the-scene coverage of the protest.)
Chicago is a political powder keg at the moment, with the battle for Cook County State’s Attorney being one of the hottest races on the ballot. Incumbent Anita Alvarez is under fire for her handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, which kicked off ongoing protests in the city over police brutality and race relations. Additionally, the city’s public school district is on the verge of a teachers’ strike and school budgets continue to get slashed.
Meanwhile, Illinois is wrestling with a legislative impasse between the Democratic legislature and Republican governor that has left the state without a budget for nine months. As a result, budgets for social services and higher education scholarships have been cut and agencies are shuttering, reducing programs and laying off employees. All of these issues have Chicagoans, and Illinoisans, on edge and ready for positive political change.
Despite having made his mark on the city’s skyline with his Trump Tower hotel, some wonder why the candidate chose Chicago as a location for an Illinois campaign rally, suggesting that there are friendlier options nearby, like the city’s collar counties.
But Trump says “it’s so unfair” that he was unable to speak in Chicago, adding that “at some point, you know, people are gonna get fed up with it.”
“We had people waiting in line for five and six and seven hours to get in. And then they get in and they get shut out, and you’re talking about right of free speech and all the other things that we all know,” he told Fox News. “At some point, they won’t be able to get away with this stuff.”
Earlier in the day, a campaign event in St. Louis seemed to foreshadow what was set to take place hours later in Chicago. Some 30 people were arrested Friday afternoon when protesters disrupted the GOP frontrunner’s campaign rally at the Peabody Opera House.
Telling protesters, to “go home to mommy” and “get a job,” Trump used inflammatory language against the protesters.
“These are not good people folks, just so you understand. These are not good people. And I heard this was going to happen, and they said, ‘Mr. Trump, would you like to cancel?’ I said, ‘absolutely not.’ These are not good people. These are not the people that made our country great, but we’re going to make it great again. But these are not good people. These are the people that are destroying our country. Get ’em out. Get ’em out. Come let’s go. Get ’em out,” Trump said to the audience.
Trump also lamented that: “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right? And they’re being politically correct, the way they take them out so it takes a little bit longer. And honestly, protesters, they realize that there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences, there are none anymore.”
This sort of language is, according to critics, what inspired the events that unfolded in Chicago on Friday night. Trump’s Republican opponents, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ohio Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seem to agree with that sentiment.
Kasich, who won the endorsement of the Cook County Republican Party on Wednesday, saw his MSNBC town hall preempted for live coverage of the situation unfolding in Chicago. The governor placed the blame for the protests squarely on Trump’s shoulders.
“Tonight the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly,” Kasich said. “Some let their opposition to his views slip beyond protest into violence, but we can never let that happen. I urge people to resist that temptation and rise to a higher level. Now is the time for Americans to come together and stand firm for what we know is true: we are great because we are a peaceful people who live by the rule of law. We are stronger together, we will reject those who try to divide us for personal gain and we will do it the right way–at the ballot box.”
Meanwhile, Rubio, who has had a volatile relationship with Trump during the campaign, echoed Kasich’s sentiments regarding Trump’s contribution to the rising tensions among his supporters and detractors.
“If you recall yesterday at the debate, I said that presidents can’t just say whatever they want,” said Rubio, who also said Trump should not have been denied the right to speak. “There are consequences to the words of a president. There are consequences to the words of a presidential candidate as well. You have a candidate in Donald Trump who has clearly has used language that has appealed to anger, and in some instances has actually said to the crowd, ‘look, let’s beat this person up,’ or ‘let’s do this’ or let’s do that.’
“So it shouldn’t surprise us that you see a growing amount of violence at some of his events. I would point out there isn’t violence at my events,” Rubio added. “There isn’t violence at Ted’s events. There isn’t violence at a Kasich event. There isn’t violence at a Sanders event. There isn’t violence at a Clinton event. There’s only one presidential candidate who has violence at their events. And I think that Donald needs to realize and take responsibility for the fact that the rhetoric he has used could potentially be contributing to this environment that is growing increasingly disturbing for a growing number of Americans.”
After leaving a Chicago fundraiser for Gov. Bruce Rauner, where protesters also made an appearance, Cruz headed to a dinner in Rolling Meadows on Friday night. Outside of the event, Cruz blamed the protesters for the “violence,” but also said Trump’s antagonistic and polarizing rhetoric incites negativity.
“The responsibility for that lies with protesters, who took violence into their own hands. But in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. Any candidate is responsible for the culture of a campaign. And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discord,” Cruz said.
“But I think a campaign bears responsibility for creating an environment when the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face,” Cruz added. “The predictable consequence of that is that it escalates, and today is unlikely to be the last such instance. We saw, earlier today, in St. Louis, over 30 arrested. That’s not how our politics should occur. You know, the city of Chicago in 1968 saw some ugly days, when politics descended into hatred and incivility and even violence. It is my hope that in 2016 we can appeal to our better angels, to avoid going down that road once again.”
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who is scheduled to visit Chicago and Springfield on Monday, released a statement in response to the chaos that erupted at the Trump rally, referencing a racially-motivated hate crime that took place in South Carolina last year and the positive change that the tragic event inspired.
“The divisive rhetoric we are seeing should be of grave concern to us all. We all have our differences, and we know many people across the country feel angry. We need to address that anger together. All of us, no matter what party we belong to or what views we hold, should not only say loudly and clearly that violence has no place in our politics, we should use our words and deeds to bring Americans together,” Clinton said. “Last year in Charleston, South Carolina an evil man walked into a church and murdered 9 people. The families of those victims came together and melted hearts in the statehouse and the confederate flag came down. That should be the model we strive for to overcome painful divisions in our country.”
Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a campaign rally close to Chicago this evening in Summit, Illinois, and blasted Trump for his vitriolic comments.
“No we’re not going to hate Mexicans, we’re not going to hate Muslims, we’re not going to insult women, we’re not going to insult veterans, we’re not going to insult African Americans, we are going to bring our people together,” Sanders told the crowd.
Sanders acknowledged that there is division among Americans over hot-button issues like immigration. Even still, the senator said, Trump’s negative comments about Muslims and Mexicans are not the answer.
“Well there is anger. But just because there is anger, he is helping to foment that anger. You don’t call Mexicans rapists or criminals or drug dealers,” he told ABC 7 News.
Sanders will stay in Chicago overnight, visiting Rainbow Push headquarters in the morning to meet with Rev. Jesse Jackson, whom he endorsed during his presidential run back in 1988. The Vermont senator will then head to Champaign for a campaign rally.
As of now, Trump has not rescheduled his Chicago campaign event, but says he “will come back some other time.” He plans to hold rallies over the weekend, including one in Dayton, Ohio Saturday morning and another in Cleveland.
Trump believes the protest in Chicago will buoy his chances for a win at the ballot box, with many of his supporters reiterating that assertion on social media.
“Two people … that are experts say this increases the vote for Trump, because, you know, what we are doing, we’re having a peaceful rally here and you’re not even allowed to have a rally anymore in this country,” Trump said. “You can’t even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence, and I didn’t want to see the real violence and that’s why I decided to call it off … A lot of people said ‘oh, this is going to increase it,’ but this has nothing to do with my decision today … I think a lot of people that it is wrong that we were really stopped from holding a rally … so I think we were given credit for doing this.”
Will Trump end up capitalizing on Friday night’s bumpy turn of events in Chicago? We’ll all have to stay tuned to find out.
Images: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast