Tensions flare: Trump scraps Chicago rally after scuffles break out

Rivals blame Republican frontrunner’s incendiary rhetoric for violent outbreak


Afp March 12, 2016
PHOTO: AFP

CHICAGO: US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump cancelled a rally in Chicago on Friday in the face of huge protests, which triggered scenes of chaos and prompted his rivals to blame the violent outbreak on his incendiary rhetoric.

Demonstrators scuffled with Trump's supporters and police struggled to maintain order, with hundreds of protesters showing up for the event.

The billionaire said he decided to call off the rally after consulting with police in the city, where tensions had been rising for hours in the build-up to the event at a sporting arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"I don't want to see anybody hurt," Trump told CNN afterwards. "I think we made the right decision (to cancel)... even though our freedom of speech was violated."

Throngs of protesters, many of them blacks and Latinos angered by Trump's incendiary anti-immigrant rhetoric, had massed outside and inside the venue itself, mingling with the candidate's supporters.

Pundits said the chaos at the rally was reminiscent of violent protests at the 1968 Democratic national convention, also in Chicago, held when the United States was torn apart by opposing views on the Vietnam War.

CNN estimated there were between 8,500 and 10,000 people in the arena when tensions erupted into chaos.

According to an AFP photographer at the scene, scuffles broke out as the decision to cancel was announced, with police struggling to separate angry supporters and protesters.

The chaos ended several hours later, but not before members of the crowd threw bottles and other objects at officers, and some tried to take the stage and speak at the podium.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2016.

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