Thousands of protesters and Donald Trump supporters will meet in Chicago on Friday night when the the leading Republican presidential candidate holds a major rally at an arena on the city’s West Side.
The Trump rally will be held at the University of Illinois’s 9,500-seat Pavilion, just five days before Illinois Republicans vote for their party’s candidate. Trump holds a double digit lead in the state.
Protesters include Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other Latino community leaders.
Chicago locals learned of Trump’s rally last weekend. In the six days since, it became clear that the event would be a focal point for both sides of the Trump divide.
Nearly 200 university faculty and staff asked school administrators to cancel the event over fears it would turn violent. An online petition to cancel the event has nearly 50,000 signatures.
“It has been our standard practice for decades to rent available space on campus to any political candidate when requested,” UIC Chancellor Michael D. Amiridis said on Saturday. “As a result, we have a long history of campaign events on campus, and no legal basis to exclude any candidate because of the views he or she expresses.”
Many protesters said they bought tickets to get inside the Trump event. Others have considered blocking entrance to the arena entirely.
Local and university policy are working with the Trump campaign, protest organizers, and the U.S. Secret Service on security plans, according to the university.
Protesters and Trump supporters are both making boisterous promises on social media about what will happen on Friday. It’s clear that both sides view this as an important and potentially violent night.
As with any online talk, it’s impossible to know how it will translate in action on the streets of Chicago. But protesters are now part of the regular action at Trump rallies. Earlier today, video surfaced of a protester being sucker-punched at a Trump rally in North Carolina.
Police are investigating two alleged assaults at a recent Kentucky rally.
As security escorted a protester out of a Nevada rally last month for “throwing punches,” Trump said, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
Trump has accused multiple protesters of becoming violent.
Last Friday, at a Michigan rally, Trump applauded his supporters as they removed a protester.
“Get him out,” Trump said. “Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court. Are Trump rallies the most fun? We’re having a good time.”
Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)