Donald Trump was suddenly surrounded by four Secret Service agents at a rally in Ohio on Saturday as a man tried to rush the stage.
Thomas Dimassimo, was later arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and inducing panic, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office said. Trump was undaunted, saying to the crowd, “I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” His show of bravado elicited cheers and his speech continued uninterrupted.
Violence has long plagued Trump’s campaign. He was forced to cancel a rally in Chicago on Friday as hundreds of protesters clashed with his supporters at the event. CNN estimated that there were 8,500-10,000 people in the University of Illinois arena at the time, and many of the protesters were reported to be Blacks and Hispanics. Police struggled to control the violence for several hours before control was restored. Two officers were injured and five people were arrested.
Trump called it “a planned attack” that was “professionally done”. He blamed supporters of Bernie Sanders for the violence. In Ohio, he referred to the violence in Chicago, saying, “Some represented Bernie, our communist friend”.
“I don’t want to see anybody hurt,” Trump told CNN afterwards. “I think we made the right decision [to cancel]… even though our freedom of speech was violated.”
It is Clinton and Sanders people who disrupted my rally in Chicago – and then they say I must talk to my people. Phony politicians!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2016
Sanders responded at a press conference in Chicago on Saturday by calling Trump a “pathological liar”.
“I don’t think our supporters are inciting,” the Democratic candidate said. “What our supporters are doing is responding to a candidate who has, in fact, in many ways, encouraged violence”.
At the rally in Chicago, many of the protesters were reported to be chanting Sanders’ name and Moveon.org, an organization that has endorsed Sanders’ campaign, made a statement confirming that it had helped organize the “student-led protest”.
Trump’s campaign has been heated and full of controversy for some time. A protester attempted to disrupt his rally two weeks ago in Las Vegas, and Trump said to the crowd, “I’d like to punch him in the face”.
In the beginning of February, protesters clashed with Trump supporters and Trump urged his fans to “knock the crap out of them”, assuring them he would pay any legal fees incurred.
In a press conference, Ted Cruz responded to the violence at the Chicago rally, telling reporters, “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 discord”.
Hillary Clinton blamed the violence on Trump’s “ugly, divisive rhetoric.”