As one team of reporters commented, "Nothing about it was surprising."
Amid scenes of chaos and contention, Donald Trump cancelled a rally at the University of Illinois Chicago on Friday night after thousands of people converged on the event site to protest the Republican frontrunner's agenda, the campaign's hostile and hateful rhetoric, and the growing violent behavior by some of his backers.
Dozens of scuffles and heated confrontations erupted both inside and outside the UIC Pavilion as thousands of anti-Trump protesters clashed with those supporting the billionaire candidate. Just after 6:30 PM local time, cheers went up inside the hall when it was announced the rally would not take place. And then things got ugly.
"The scene at the UIC Pavilion quickly became chaotic," reported the Chicago Sun Times, "as people refused to leave and continued screaming at each other, pushing and throwing punches, despite police working to move them out."
As this video from Times shows:
And the Guardian reports:
Police walked up and down the arena stairs holding sheaves of plastic handcuffs amid fraught but as yet non-violent scenes. Attendees grabbed signs from each other’s hands and several dozen people were ejected from the event long before formalities were scheduled to begin. At least one section of young people was cleared out by police long before the event began, including many of Middle Eastern appearance. “Just because I look like them doesn’t mean I’m with them,” said one.
[When] it was announced that Trump wasn’t coming[...] the arena erupted into chaos.
College students shouted “We shut it down” while loyal supporters of the Republican frontrunner shouted “We want Trump”.
Fights and scuffles broke out as protesters swapped blows with Trump supporters and activists eager to celebrate their apparent victory shouted “Bernie, Bernie” and “Si se puede” (“Yes we can”), while waving signs supporting the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Outside, police resorted to crowd control tactics to keep the thousands of people expressing their opposition to Trump separated from those there supporting him:
Following the cancellation, Trump called into several cable news shows, including Chris Matthews' evening show on MSNBC, to respond to questions about what transpired:
"You have so much anger in the country. I mean it's just anger in the country. I don't think it's directed at me or anything," Trump told Matthews. "It's just directed at what's going on for years and it's sort of both sides."
In a separate interview on CNN, Trump said he had "no regrets" about his tough talk regarding the treatment of protesters who show up at his rallies.
As the Chicago Tribune notes, the scenes witnessed on Friday night were hardly unpredictable:
What many had feared as Trump’s campaign has proceeded had finally happened on a large scale: A flammable brew of populist anger, campaign mismanagement, a candidate’s own provocative encouragement and protesters fighting back — quite literally — finally found its fuse. The explosion was predictable, given tensions in the country around its changing demographic face and economic displacement that has left many fearful and upset, receptive audiences for Trump’s surprisingly strong candidacy.
Earlier on Friday, at a rally in St. Louis, dozens of people were arrested after protesting a rally in that city.