Violence Persists Among Trump Rally Protesters

Mar 13, 2016
Originally published on March 13, 2016 8:32 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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DONALD TRUMP: Get them out. Get them out.

MARTIN: That's Donald Trump reacting to protesters at his rally last night in Kansas City, Mo. He's scheduled to hold rallies today in Illinois, Ohio and Florida and likely to draw even more attention after a dramatic weekend of protests. Trump has been touring key states in anticipation of important primaries Tuesday. Things started to unravel Friday night in Chicago after protesters shut down a scheduled rally. But the GOP front-runner was back on stage in Ohio and Missouri yesterday. And protesters were present inside every venue. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The scene inside that arena in Chicago was the most chaotic yet at a Trump campaign event. But every event has some moment, sometimes many, where protesters, alone or in groups, begin shouting at the candidate. Yesterday was no exception. In Cleveland, it began less than a minute after Trump began.

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TRUMP: So early. Look at that. Look at that. Look at that. Shocking.

GONYEA: The protester yells. The candidate responds.

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TRUMP: Do we love our protesters? Right? We love them. Get them out of here. Get them out.

GONYEA: It was one of a half-dozen disruptions at the Cleveland event. One featured a scuffle between a protester and a Trump backer.

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING)

GONYEA: Trump supporters say the cancellation of the Chicago event only made them more determined to come out to this one. They argue such protesters deny Trump's right of free speech. And they defend his rhetoric, even Trump saying some protesters should be punched or roughed up, as, indeed, some have been. In Cleveland, 49-year-old Conrad Sommers and his wife Jennifer say Trump shouldn't be taken literally.

C. SOMMERS: I think he's just speaking for us. I mean, I've oftentimes said I'd like to beat the snot out of you, and I would actually never lay a hand on a person. It's just more a figure of speech.

J. SOMMERS: We all want to do it. We all want to punch them. We want to hear Trump. We don't want to see the hecklers.

GONYEA: Earlier, Trump started his day at a rally in a hangar at the airport in Dayton. At one point, a spectator tried to rush the stage, jumping over the steel bike rack-style barrier. Secret Service agents quickly detained him. Other agents shielded Trump.

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TRUMP: I know it's not...

(SOUNDBITE OF YELLING)

GONYEA: The crowd seemed excited - cheering, though few could have known exactly what was happening.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) USA, USA, USA.

TRUMP: I was ready for him, but it's much easier if the cops do it. Don't we agree?

GONYEA: Then, just a couple minutes later...

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TRUMP: By the way, is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: No.

GONYEA: Trump ended his Saturday in downtown Kansas City. It was a packed old theater, and the protests began immediately.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST CHANTS)

GONYEA: The constant interruption continued for 15 minutes. Trump actually encouraged it with his taunts. Later in the speech, Trump suggested that man who his Secret Service detained in Dayton had ties to ISIS, though he's basing that claim on what appears to be an Internet hoax video. Also in Kansas City, something new for Trump - he said those disrupting the event should be arrested, not just removed and that he would press charges.

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TRUMP: So I hope you arrest him and do whatever you have to do. And you know what? Once that starts happening, we're not going to have any more protesters, folks. We're not going to have any more protests.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Don't count on that. Interruptions are sure to continue. So, too, will the beefed-up security, like at yesterday's events, which included police controlling crowds with horses and pepper spray. It's all part of a scene with the potential for conflict and danger that Trump knows is impossible for people not to watch. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.