CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago)-- A Donald Trump rally planned for Friday evening in Chicago was abruptly postponed, following massive clashes between protesters.
As CBS2's Dave Carlin reported, the protest at the UIC Pavilion west of downtown Chicago began with chanting, but soon turned physical with Trump supporters and opponents going at each other and fists flying. Protesters had ascended upon the campaign rally from the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago campus.
The announcement that the rally would be canceled came in around 6:30 p.m. Central Time -- around half an hour after Trump had been expected to take the stage and with thousands of Trump supporters filling the space, CBS Chicago reported.
It was not immediately clear what the postponement meant, or whether the Trump event was really canceled, CBS Chicago reported. Safety was cited as a concern.
Coverage From CBS Chicago – Dana Kozlov Reports:
"Mr. Trump 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," the Trump campaign said in a statement posted online. "Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace."
In a telephone interview with CNN's Don Lemon, Trump explained his decision to postpone.
"I'm not a person that wants to see violence. I'm not a person that wants to see people hurt," Trump said. "And that's why I put out the statement before, and it said go home in peace."
"CPD did not meet with the Trump campaign prior to the cancellation of the event, nor did we make any suggestion that the event be cancelled," a police representative told WBBM-CBS2.
By the time the rally was postponed, thousands were already in place waiting for Trump.
"We thought Trump was coming out, and they canceled it saying it's not really safe," said Trump supporter Joseph Golota.
When the announcement came down, it was pandemonium, reported Bob Roberts of Chicago's WBBM Newsradio.
Protesters chanted, "We stopped Trump," while supporters shouted, "We want Trump." People shouted at each other on the floor as police officers and security personnel tried to restore order.
Several hundred people stayed inside the pavilion for about half an hour after the rally was officially called off, but police ultimately directed everyone to leave.
Some protesters took credit for stopping Trump's Rally.
"He came to the wrong city," one exuberant protester told WBBM-CBS2's Dana Kozlov. "This is Chicago, not Trump city."
But Trump supporters called that position un-American.
"They are intolerant of free speech," a Trump supporter told Kozlov. "They are the intolerant ones. They can't stand that somebody has an opinion other than theirs."
Huge crowds were also seen outside the stadium, and conditions were tense as the anti-Trump demonstrators ringed the building. A Chicago Police officer was seen bleeding from the head, but it wasn't immediately clear what had happened.
The officer was reportedly taken to Chicago's Stroger Hospital of Cook County in good condition, CBS Chicago reported.
Officers could be seen clashing with demonstrators outside the arena, CBS Chicago reported.
Chopper video from WBBM-TV, CBS2 Chicago showed hundreds of people gathered at a nearby intersection. Others tried to form human chains attempting to block traffic but police were able to quickly push the crowds to disperse, CBS Chicago reported.
Eventually, the protesters were cordoned off to an area outside the University of Illinois at Chicago campus parking garage, where police cleared a path for attendees to leave. Hundreds of protesters stood along the road taking part in chants and holding signs – one of which read: "Has Humanity Ever Built a Wall That Could Withstand Human Will?"
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel praised officers for dispersing crowds.
"For all of us who cherish the ideals upon which our country was founded, the hateful, divisive rhetoric that pits Americans against each other demeans our democratic values and diminishes our democratic process. I want to thank the men and women of the Chicago Police Department for their hard work tonight in unexpected circumstances, and their continued commitment to protecting people's first amendment rights," Emanuel said in a prepared statement.
Chicago Police could not immediately tell WBBM-CBS2's Jeremy Ross how many people were arrested, or the conditions of those injured during the protests outside the stadium.
Coverage From CBS Chicago -- Jeremy Ross Reports:
Trump's political campaign had rented out the university facility, over the objections of critics who said it was not an appropriate venue for the contentious candidate, CBS Chicago reported.
Trump supporters were enthusiastic about seeing the billionaire developer and GOP frontrunner.
"I like everything that comes out of his mouth," one Trump supporter, Dean Wareh, told WBBM-CBS2's Mai Martinez before the rally. "I like the way he unifies people. Look at how he energized everybody."
But others told WBBM-CBS2's Ross they were there to demonstrate against Trump's stances on Muslims and threats of mass-deportation of immigrants.
Some protesters said their decision to rally wasn't based on any new action on Trump's part, but rather the unification of young people who stand against what the candidate represents. At least a handful of protesters who made it inside were ejected from the UIC Pavilion.
Martinez reported as security began escorting protesters out, many Trump supporters chanted in unison, "Build a wall!" and "USA!"
Officials from the Trump campaign had earlier told attendees over loudspeakers that this was to be a peaceful rally and that when they're engaged with a protester not to engage physically, but instead to hold a Trump sign up and shout, "Trump!"
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who recently endorsed Trump, was asked about the protest at an unrelated event.
"I don't know any of what you're talking about in terms of what has gone on or is going on in Chicago, so I can't speak to that, but I can tell you that I've been to events in Bentonville, Arkansas; Tennessee; a number of different spots across the country with Donald, and I thought that the rallies were great and enthusiastic and appropriate. But you can ask me again when I get the specifics of Chicago," Christie said.
Earlier Friday, protesters were escorted from a Trump rally in St. Louis. Trump commented on the situation as it unfolded.
"Nobody's being hurt -- very rude," Trump said at the event. "Where are the police? Come on police. Get him out. Let's go."
Two days ago, a Trump supporter was charged with punching a demonstrator in the face at a rally in North Carolina.
Trump on Friday responded to criticism that at previous rallies, there were scuffles and even bloodshed. He said protesters are the violent ones.
"I saw very, very strong, very violent protesters hitting people, and yeah, I'm not happy about that and I would always express my feelings about that," Trump said.
All Trump events begin with an announcement that people are to remain peaceful.
Other candidates were also campaigning in Chicago Friday ahead of the Illinois primary on Tuesday of next week. Democrat Bernie Sanders held a rally at a high school in the southwest Chicago suburb of Summit, while Republican Ted Cruz appeared at ticketed events at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago and at a banquet hall in northwest suburban Rolling Meadows.
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