Bernie Sanders is fighting back against allegations that his supporters were responsible for a violent disruption at Donald Trump’s rally in Chicago on Friday, saying instead that Trump’s violent rhetoric is to blame.
On Friday, loud crowds interrupted Trump’s political rally, some of them violently clashing with police and ultimately forcing Trump to cancel the event before he could even arrive. A number of the demonstrators were vocally supporting Bernie Sanders, leading Trump to accuse the Vermont Senator of helping to incite the crowds.
“Some represented Bernie, our communist friend,” Trump said at a rally in Dayton on Saturday, via CNN.
Later, at a rally in Cleveland, Trump more directly blamed Bernie Sanders.
“You know Bernie was saying Mr. Trump should speak to his crowd,” Trump said. “You know where they come from? Bernie’s crowd. They’re Bernie’s crowd.”
But Bernie Sanders fought back against the allegations, saying that instead Donald Trump is reaping what he has sown through his incendiary language at rallies. In the past Trump has wished violence on demonstrators, even telling his political fans in attendance that he would pay their legal bills should they chose to take matters into their own hands.
In one incident last week, a vocal black protester was sucker-punched as police were leading him out of a rally.
“I don’t think our supporters are inciting. What our supporters are doing is responding to a candidate who has, in fact, in many ways, encouraged violence,” Sanders said at a press conference in Chicago one day after Trump’s rally. “When he talks about… ‘I wish we were in the old days when you could punch somebody in the head.’ What do you think that says to his supporters?”
Sanders added that there is no evidence that his campaign staff were involved with the protest, and he refused to apologize for what had happened.
Instead, Sanders had more sharp words for Donald Trump.
“As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar.”
But there is evidence of a connection between Bernie Sanders and the violence at Trump’s rally in Chicago, if not directly. The left-leaning activist group MoveOn.org confirmed to CNN that it helped to recruit and organize college students to lead Friday’s protest. The group has endorsed Bernie Sanders, though has no direct connection to his campaign.
Protesters say police have pepper sprayed people at Trump Rally pic.twitter.com/Jo7Zd1pDGA— Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) March 13, 2016
The Chicago protest also touched on other issues. While many of the demonstrators chanted against Donald Trump, they also displayed signs connected to the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
NBC News reported that there was a direct connection between Trump and previous activism in Chicago.
Matthew Ross, who created several event pages promoting the protest, said the activism around McDonald played directly into the event. “That kind of just carried over to this,” he said.
“We’ll just keep a lookout and see if [Trump] tries to come back to Chicago,” Ross said. “Hopefully, there’s a domino effect.”
The disruptions at Donald Trump’s rally came at a time when a growing number of people are criticizing his inciting rhetoric. While Bernie Sanders has often taken aim at Trump’s divisive language, the GOP frontrunner is now coming under fire from his own party.
“America is better than this. We don’t have to tear each other apart,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said. “When you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.”
But despite the attacks from Bernie Sanders and other Republicans, Donald Trump is still largely unscathed. He continues to lead Republican primary polls, and with victories in major races on Tuesday could all but wrap up the nomination.
[Picture by Scott Olson/Getty Images]