The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App

Donald Trump blames rally violence in Chicago on "thugs"

Last Updated Mar 12, 2016 9:59 PM EST

Donald Trump is blaming the violence at his scheduled Chicago rally Friday night on "thugs," saying their protests have "totally energized America."

He tweeted the claim early Saturday morning:

The Republican front-runner canceled his appearance at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion on Friday, with the campaign citing safety concerns amid rising tensions at his recent political rallies.

In a statement, Trump's campaign announced that he had "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."

Earlier in the evening, hundreds of protesters had gathered outside of the UIC Pavilion to protest the billionaire businessman, while several anti-Trump groups also occupied sections in the arena itself.

After news spread that Trump would be a no-show at the event, skirmishes between protesters and police broke out outside of the arena.

While covering the protests, CBS News journalist Sopan Deb was detained by police and charged with resisting arrest. He was released shortly afterward.

On Friday, Trump expressed frustration at the mounting tensions during a phone interview with MSNBC.

"It's a little bit sad when you can't have a rally in a major city in this country," he said. "Whatever happened to freedom of speech? Whatever happened to the right to get together?"

Explaining that he called off the rally because he didn't "want to see the real violence," Trump reiterated that the campaign still "shouldn't be restricted from having a rally here."

"Our nation is totally divided. In many ways it's divided, and one of the ways it's divided is white-black," he said. "I'm a unifier. President Obama has not been a unifier, he's been a divider. I'm a unifier, I'll bring people together."

In previous rallies where protests have erupted, Trump has repeatedly called for demonstrators to be thrown out and has seemed to encourage physical reactions to the disruptions.

At a St. Louis rally earlier on Friday, Trump crowed that his campaign events have "been pretty exciting."

"A lot of enthusiasm," he told supporters. "Frankly, we are not angry people. But we do get angry when we see the stupidity with which our country is run and how it's being destroyed. Stupidity."

At another rally in Iowa last month, Trump warned that, "There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience."

"If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?" he added. "Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees."

Trump's Republican rivals have denounced the escalating tenor of his rallies and knocked Trump for inciting Friday's violence in Chicago.

On the day of the protests, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz slammed the GOP front-runner at Chicago's Young Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner, saying that "any candidate is responsible for the cultures of the campaign."

"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 display," Cruz said. "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. The predictable consequence of that is that it escalates, and today is unlikely to be the last such instance."

"Donald Trump has created a toxic environment," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said during a press conference in Cincinnati Saturday morning. "There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of people."

During an event in Largo, Florida, Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio decried the "images that make America look like a third-world country."

While he claimed that he would, at the moment, support the Republican nominee, Rubio said "it's getting harder every day."