CHICAGO (AP) — College students, civil rights activists and other opponents of Donald Trump’s Republican presidential candidacy tried again to disrupt his events on Saturday after shutting down his rally a day earlier in Chicago.
Here’s a look at how activists quickly organized Friday’s protests in Chicago and whether a sustained protest movement might be in the works:
CONDITIONS WERE RIPE
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Trump ran into a vibrant community of student activists and civil- and immigrant-rights campaigners that has experience in organizing mass demonstrations and was energized by recent scandals over Chicago police shootings of young black men. The arena where the event took place is at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a diverse, big-city campus.
“We have a lot of groups that Trump and his campaigners attack, including Muslims, immigrants, undocumented people, Mexicans, blacks, the LGBT community,” said Juan Rojas, a 19-year-old neuroscience pre-med student and one of the protest organizers.
One Trump supporter even acknowledged that had Trump gone to the suburbs, it’s likely nothing would have happened.
But Chicago may not be a one-off: Activists in Kansas City, Missouri, say they’re also expecting to shut down the Trump event at a downtown theater Saturday.
Besides mobilizing a big crowd, the Chicago protesters used some new tactics. They encouraged students to sign up for lots of tickets in an attempt to limit the crowd of actual Trump supporters, making the crowd appear to be an equal mix of those eager to cheer on the real estate mogul and those overtly opposed to his candidacy.
Once inside, protesters also stuck together in groups to avoid being set upon individually by angry Trump supporters, as has happened at past rallies. Still, some scuffles and fistfights broke out. But entering in force allowed protesters to break out in celebratory cheering and dancing when a Trump representative took to the stage to announce the rally had been cancelled.
“He didn’t even really finish his sentence before cheers started being heard,” said 19-year-old nursing student Casandra Robledo, another protest organizer.
WAS IT STAGED?
Trump asserted Saturday that the Chicago protest was a professionally staged “planned attack.”
But organizers like Robledo and Rojas said it was put together by student organizations on campus — via Facebook — with no affiliation to any political groups. About 100 campus leaders met a week before the rally to decide on a message and a strategy and printed flyers. Word spread quickly and protesters were able to pack both the auditorium and a parking lot outside.
Some of the Chicago organizers said they don’t plan to take part in any broader movement to dog the candidate elsewhere. They didn’t succeed in shutting down his rallies in Ohio and Missouri on Saturday but police had to separate a large group of protesters from Trump supporters in Kansas City.
A man tried to breach the security buffer at his event in Dayton, leading Secret Service agents to briefly rush the stage to surround him, but Trump finished his speech without apparent incident.
Trump was interrupted about a dozen times during his speech in Kansas City by protesters who had managed to get inside the theater where he was speaking.
While he asked his supporters not to hurt them, a visibly annoyed Trump also said he was “going to start pressing charges against all these people.”
“I hope they arrest these people, because honestly they should be,” Trump said to cheers.
For Sunday, protesters were prepping for a Trump stop in Bloomington, a central Illinois city of about 80,000, and local officials said they would be deploying extra police.
Associated Press writer Jim Suhr in Kansas City contributed to this report.