The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Cruz to a heckler: ‘I’m not asking anyone to punch you in the face’

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speaks with reporters before a campaign rally at the Northland Performing Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio, on March 13. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

PEORIA, Ill. — Ted Cruz's rally here was wrapping up when a man started screaming from the crowd.

"Go back to Canada!" the man yelled. Cruz was born in Calgary and moved to Texas as a young child.

"I appreciate you being here," Cruz said to the man. This was the second protester that interrupted Cruz on Monday; an animal rights activist yelled at him earlier in the day. On a day when a North Carolina sheriff's office announced that it is investigating whether Donald Trump can be charged with inciting a riot because of his actions at a rally where an African American protester was sucker-punched by a white man, Cruz wanted to point out that he takes a different approach.

After punching incident, N.C. sheriff mulls ‘inciting a riot’ charge against Trump

"Thank you for being here. Be respectful," Cruz said to a booing audience.

"See sir, one difference between this and a Donald Trump rally is I’m not asking anyone to punch you in the face," he said.

Cruz is occasionally heckled at his rallies, and often engages with the protesters while pushing back at them and their causes.

Trump: There has been 'no violence' at campaign rallies

"Thank you sir, I’d be disappointed if I came to the University of Maine and had no protesters at all," Cruz said in Orono, Maine, earlier this month. Cruz said that the university students "“have safe zones and trigger warnings to be scared and frightened to hear this thing called the truth."

He then engaged with the hecklers, who were protesting Cruz's stance on immigration, telling them that they were basically protesting in support of Wall Street and driving down the wages of working-class Americans. But, he said, they have the right to protest.

"The First Amendment does not give you the right to silence others," he said. "If you want to hold a rally, knock yourself out."