The line to get into the Donald Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) tonight was an indication of the chaos to come. Alongside Trump supporters in “Make America Great Again” baseball caps were anti-Trump protesters planning to disrupt the event, some wearing Bernie Sanders paraphernalia.
“We are going to make sure that all these racist Trump fans understand that we are not having this in Chicago,” said activist Ja’Mal Green, who was having trouble getting inside. “We got in this line and they were telling us ‘We are going to make America white again.’ We are not having this in Chicago. So we are going to go in there and be vocal and let the people know what’s going on.”
Inside the venue, the atmosphere was tense, with a large contingent of anti-Trump protesters gathered in a cluster in the middle of the arena. It appeared that a number of them were UIC students. Patrick Paniagua, a junior at UIC said he was part of a group of students who organized to try shut down the rally. He said he was protesting because he was Mexican-American, and had “a lot of family who is targeted by the hate of Trump.”
Periodic fights erupted between Trump supporters and protesters, with Illinois state police officers escorting the combatants outside. Trump’s rallies have been the scene of several violent incidents, including an event in North Carolina where a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester and was later charged with assault.
In Chicago, the campaign first announced that the event would be postponed, but then decided to call off the rally altogether, with one organizer reading a statement saying that Trump “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.”
“Thank you very much for your attendance and please go in peace,” he added. The protesters erupted in cheers.
Arguments between protesters and Trump supporters continued outside the venue, where there were more anti-Trump protests taking place.
The protesters were jubilant; Trump supporters were angry and disappointed. Speaking on MSNBC, Trump said: “It’s a little bit sad when you can’t have a rally in a major city in this country … whatever happened to freedom of speech?”
“I think it’s horrible, they scammed their way in here. It’s un-American,” said Gina DiBalsamo, a Trump supporter. She called what happened “hate, extreme hate.”