Donald Trump abandons Chicago rally after violent clashes erupt

There has been mounting concerns about violent clashes at the tycoon's events 

Violent clashes broke out ahead of a Donald Trump campaign event in Chicago – forcing the billionaire tycoon to cancel the event due to security concerns and raising new, pressing questions about his ability dampen an increasingly toxic atmosphere.

In scenes not seen for five decades during a presidential campaign, rival groups hurled abuse at each other and some engaged in sporadic fighting as they waited for the tycoon to appear.

But Mr Trump announced that having spoken to the Chicago Police Department he had decided to postpone the event. 

A protester holds up a ripped campaign sign for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago

A statement issued by his campaign said: “MrTrump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date.”

It added: “Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace.”

Police begin to clear the arena

He later told MSNBC he had acted because he did not “want to see people hurt or worse”.

The announcement that Mr Trump would postpone the rally for another day led the crowd inside the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion to break out into raucous cheers. 

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, supporters of the Republican frontrunner broke out into chants of “We want Trump! We want Trump!”

People had packed into the arena ahead of Mr Trump’s scheduled appearance carrying signs and banners.

Many of those who were waiting in line to get into the Friday night event identified themselves as protesters. Student GJ Pryor said he wanted to disrupt Mr Trump's speech, adding he would only do so if he felt safe, the AP said.

Some Trump supporters walking toward the arena chanted, “USA, USA,” and “Illegal is illegal”. One demonstrator shouted back: “Racist!”

Police begin to clear the arena

Reports said there had been a heavy police presence outside the rally, with barricades and mounted police keeping most protesters and supporters of Mr Trump apart. 

Veronica Kowalkowsky, a supporter of Mr Trump, said she had no ill will toward the protesters. But the 18-year-old said she sensed anger from Mr Trump’s opponents. “I feel a lot of hate. I haven't said anything bad to anyone,” she said.

The city’s police department later said that the decision to call off the event had been that of Mr Trump. It said no arrests had been made and no injuries had been reported.

Protestors march in Chicago ahead of Mr Trump's planned event at the University of Illinois-Chicago

The decision to cancel the event came as Mr Trump has found himself at the centre of mounting controversy over violence and the apparent targeting of African-Americans at his rallies. Earlier this week, a new video emerged of a protester apparently being punched by a white supporter.

Supporters of Mr Trump said the ugly scenes in Chicago were not the blame of the reality television star.

Yet Mr Trump has refused to condemn the attacks that have taken place at this events, and many political observers and rivals have voiced concern that his aggressive comments have created an atmosphere of hostility. 

A 78-year-old supporter who was captured in the video that emerged on Thursday said of the protester in a television interview: “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.” The Trump supporter was arrested and charged.

On Friday morning, Mr Trump responded to calls for him to condemn the violence by referring to another another event two weeks ago, after a man causing a ruckus was escorted out by security guards, when he told the crowd that he himself felt like punching the protester in the face.

Police block anti-Trump protesters in Chicago

Mr Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told The Independent that steps had been taken to increase the police and security inside Trump rallies. “If there is anybody out of line, those people are held accountable,” he said.

But he appeared to exonerate those supporters who may be on short fuses, putting it down to their anger at how America has been treated by foreign nations. 

“Mr Trump’s people are very, very passionate,” Mr Lewandowski said. “They are angry because of the way this country has been taken advantage of by so many other countries. That is the frustration level that a lot of people in this country feel, and people express it in different ways.”

Meanwhile, a female journalist claimed she was manhandled and “yanked” by Mr Lewandowski as she tried to ask Mr Trump a question. 

Both Mr Lewandowski and Mr Trump have denied the claim, but on Friday the reporter, Michelle Fields, who works for the conservative news site Breitbart, posted images on social media that showed bruises she claimed she received. She also filed a police report.