AP - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump canceled one of his signature rallies on Friday, calling off the event due to safety concerns after protesters packed the arena where he was scheduled to speak.
Hundreds of jubilant protesters chanted victory cries and jeered at glum Trump supporters as they filed out of the auditorium where the Republican presidential candidate was slated to hold his campaign rally Friday night.
The announcement that billionaire businessman would postpone the rally led a large portion of the crowd inside the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion to break out into raucous cheers. Many rushed onto the floor, jumping up and down with their arms up in the air.
"Trump represents everything America is not and everything Chicago is not," said Kamran Siddiqui, 20, a student at the school. "We came in here and we wanted to shut this down. Because this is a great city and we don't want to let that person in here."
Outside, the tenor of hourslong protests shifted when one protester passed on word of the cancellation through a megaphone on the campus of the ethnically diverse University of Illinois at Chicago. The crowd roared in delight and began chanting: "We stopped Trump! We stopped Trump!"
The protesters closed in on the building, obstructing most of the exits just as Trump supporters began filing out. The Trump supporters had little choice but to push through the anti-Trump crowds that parted only slightly, yelling, "Racists go home!"
"I think it's a great thing that happened," Sierria Coleman, a 28-year-old graduate student, said about the cancellation. "To have (the Trump rally) at this school, for what this school stands for, is disrespectful."
Trump supporter Bill Vail said he walked through a gauntlet of protesters who cursed at him as he pushed through holding his 9-year-old daughter's hand. She cried, he said.
"They scream about tolerance, but are being intolerant themselves," Vail, 43, of the Chicago suburb of Oaklawn, said. "That doesn't make sense."
At Trump's rally earlier Friday in St. Louis, he was repeatedly interrupted by protesters. Police there charged nearly three dozen people with general peace disturbance and one person with assault.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, second in delegates to Trump in the Republican race, said late Friday that the billionaire has created "an environment that encourages this sort of nasty discourse."
In a telephone interview after postponing his event in Chicago, Trump said he didn't "want to see people hurt or worse" at the rally, telling MSNBC, "I think we did the right thing."
Hours earlier, Trump supporters and opponents stood calmly in a line together waiting to get inside. Police horses and barricades kept the bulk of the demonstrators across the street. Trump opponents were protesting what they called his divisive comments, particularly about Muslims and Mexicans. Dozens of UIC faculty and staff had petitioned university administrators to cancel the rally, citing concerns it would create a "hostile and physically dangerous environment."
Tensions outside rose only after news of the cancellation spread.
At one point, nearly 20 officers who had been manning barricades suddenly bolted for an intersection across a street bridge over a freeway — where protesters shouted at and jostled with police already there. An officer was seen walking from that intersection with blood on his head. A police spokesman said later that he couldn't provide details.
There were some other isolated physical confrontations among members of the crowd. Five people were arrested overall, Chicago police said.
Trump supporters Stu and Roberta Aschauer from suburban Warrenville criticized the protesters' behavior.
"I hear all this free speech crap, but they want to shut down free speech for us," Stu Aschauer said.
"This is unfair, the protesters, the way they are treating us," added Roberta Aschauer.
One demonstrator, Karie Otteburn, 28, of Chicago, said she had little sympathy that Trump supporters felt uncomfortable as they left.
"If you are going to support a divisive candidate, you're opening yourself up to that kind of thing," she said.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now