“I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump quipped after the man was taken away. “And to think I had such an easy life! What do I need this for, right?”
Saturday marked Trump's first appearance since violent clashes in Chicago erupted after the campaign abruptly canceled an event there Friday night. The incident has raised questions from critics about the tone he has set for the campaign. As Trump has inched closer to the Republican nomination in recent weeks, protesters have become increasingly drawn to his events; those demonstrations have, in many instances, resulted in physical altercations.
Trump wasted no time addressing Friday’s cancellation, saying that his supporters “caused no problem” at his rally, instead saying supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders are to blame.
“My people are nice,” Trump said at a Saturday morning rally in Dayton. “Thousands and thousands of people, they caused no problem. They were taunted, they were harassed by these other people. These other people, by the way, some represent Bernie, our communist. … He should really get up and say to his people: Stop. Stop.”
Trump called the protesters “organized, professionally staged wise guys” who launched “a planned attack.” Trump said Sanders should call for an end to the protests that have erupted at his rallies in recent weeks, not him.
Sanders, in a statement, called Trump's accusation a lie: “As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests."
Trump said there were so many protesters in Chicago, relative to supporters, because he had warned his people to not go. He described the canceled rally as limiting the free speech rights of him and his supporters, even though his campaign was the one to decide to cancel the rally, in consultation with the Secret Service and private security.
“Bad groups — these are bad people,” Trump said, as the crowd booed the liberal organizers. “These are people that truly don’t want to see our country be great again. I’m telling you, I’m telling you. And we want to get along with everybody, and we can get along with people. We’re going to unify the country. Our president has divided this country so badly.”
Trump later elaborated: “We have a divided country. We have black and white and every other thing, income groups. Everybody hates everybody, even in Congress. … The politicians hate each other. The Democrats hate the Republicans. The liberals hate the conservatives. We have got to change.”
He then cut off mid-thought because he was interrupted by a group of protesters. As he waited for the commotion to die down, the crowd shouted: “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Aside from the fence-jumper, the GOP front-runner encountered less protest activity in Dayton than in other rallies — though that bar has been set high in recent days.
In Fayetteville, N.C., Wednesday, a man punched a young protester in the face as he was escorted out of the venue.
In St. Louis on Friday afternoon, protesters interrupted the real estate mogul eight times during his speech at the Peabody Opera House. He was held up for several minutes as police officers struggled to remove demonstrators. Outside, Trump supporters and protesters clashed, at times violently. In all, 32 people were arrested, according to the St. Louis Police Department.
There were just three other interruptions Saturday in Dayton, and they were relatively brief and resulted in no violence.
Despite the uproar and concerns over the Chicago clashes, Trump appeared intent on pushing beyond the controversy and looking toward Tuesday’s election. He repeatedly knocked Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who he is battling to win the state’s winner-take-all primary, on the North American Free Trade Agreement and on immigration.