CHICAGO // Donald Trump’s Republican rivals for the White House condemned protests that shut down his planned rally in Chicago, but said his incendiary speech was partly to blame.
Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio both called the incident “sad” and said the people who chanted anti-Trump slogans and scuffled with his fans inside a stadium at the University of Illinois should have respected the candidate and let the rally happen.
But they added that Mr Trump shared some responsibility.
The business tycoon has drawn fervent support as well as harsh criticism for his calls to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.
His rallies often attract small groups of protesters, but Friday’s was the first at which there may have been as many protesters as supporters.
The two sides shouted at each other until a Trump campaign staffer appeared and announced that the event would be put off until an unspecified date for security reasons. The cancellation followed a an appearance by Mr Trump in St Louis, Missouri earlier on Friday during which protests forced the front-runner to halt his speech repeatedly.
“Go home to mommy,” Mr Trump said as security personnel ejected one of the protesters in St Louis.
“When you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence,” Texas senator Mr Cruz said, “you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse”.
In Chicago, while activity inside the rally was largely peaceful, a group of protesters gathered nearby clashed briefly with police when they tried to shut down an expressway, a Chicago police department spokesman said.
Two police officers were injured, with one requiring stitches, according to the spokesman. A reporter for CBS News was also arrested and later released, according to media reports.
Mr Trump has a significant lead in primary contests over the three remaining Republicans vying for the White House, and is looking to cement it on Tuesday when voters in five more states, including Illinois, go to the polls.
Ohio governor John Kasich, also battling Mr Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, said the protests occurred because “the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit”.
Florida senator Mr Rubio had the harshest words for the protesters. He said in a Fox News interview that protests in Chicago had become “an industry”, with some of the people involved “probably being paid to do this”.