Trump's Chicago rally called off for safety reasons amid chaos

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Trump Cancels Rally, Scuffles Erupt

CHICAGO, March 11 (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump canceled a rally scheduled for Friday night in Chicago after the event turned into a chaotic scene with thousands of attendees split into opposing camps of supporters of the Republican front-runner and protesters inflamed by his candidacy.

A Trump campaign staffer took the stage nearly a half hour after the rally was slated to begin and said it would be postponed for safety reasons. A campaign statement issued slightly later said the event would be held on another unnamed day.

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Following the announcement, the crowd began to chant and cheer. Scuffles broke out as signs were ripped from hands and police moved in to break up areas with the most serious conflicts.

Cries of "We dumped Trump! We dumped Trump!" rose inside the University of Illinois at Chicago pavilion where the event was held.

An opposing group yelled: "We want Trump! We want Trump!"

Outside the pavilion, chants of "We shut it down!" rippled through the crowd on news of the cancellation.

See photos from the scene:

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Trump's Chicago rally called off for safety reasons amid chaos
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: A ripped campaign poster sits on the floor after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: An activist is removed by police after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: A campaign worker guards the podium after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Police clear the stadium after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 11: Demonstrators celebrate after it was announced that a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois at Chicago would be postponed on March 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. Organizers postponed the rally citing safety reasons after hundreds of demonstrators were ticketed for the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A demonstrator is removed by Chicago police during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
A protestor holds a ripped Donald Trump sign up before the start of a rally for the Republican presidential candidate at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protestors wearing shirts reading 'Muslims United Against Trump' are escorted out the UIC Pavilion in Chicago prior to the start of a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, face off with protesters after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago was cancelled due to security concerns Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protesters against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shout at Trump supporters after it was announced that the candidate's rally was canceled due to security concerns, on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protesters against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump chant 'Bernie, Bernie, and We Stopped Trump,' after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was canceled Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protestors march in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestors march in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestor Sanko Hampton marches in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protestor Sanko Hampton displays an American flag in Chicago on Friday, March 11, 2016, before a rally with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Protesters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, chant after a rally on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was canceled due to security concerns Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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Chicago activists had spent the week leading up to the rally planning how to disrupt it.

Trump has become a particularly polarizing candidate in the current presidential campaign. He has both inspired impassioned supporters and ignited a backlash of angry dissent with his promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants and his call to temporarily ban the entry of Muslims into the country.

One group at Friday's event, Showing Up for Racial Justice, coordinated with minority student groups on local campuses, using group email chains and messaging so that protesters could stay in constant communication.

One of the organizers, Nathaniel Lewis, 25, a master's degree student in public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was shocked they succeeded in shutting the rally down.

"I'm happy, I'm at peace because we came together as a collective," Lewis told Reuters. "This is the last thing we expected to happen, it shows the power of unity."

Trump, speaking to MSNBC by telephone shortly after the canceled event, said he met with law enforcement after arriving in Chicago. Though he believed it would have been possible to move forward, he said he made the "wise decision" to postpone the rally to keep everyone safe.

Trump brushed off questions from MSNBC's Chris Matthews about whether such widespread disruptions were to be expected given the increasingly aggressive tenor of recent campaign events.

Trump said his supporters had planned for a peaceful rally and that it was derailed by the protesters.

"You can't even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore," Trump said. "Up until this point we've had no problem."

Trump told MSNBC he expected support for his candidacy would only increase.

Earlier in the day, at a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, Trump had been speaking for less than 10 minutes when protesters began interrupting him. The disruptions continued over the next hour as Trump urged security to "get them out."

"Can I be honest with you, it adds to the flavor, it's more exciting. Isn't this better than listening to a long boring speech?" Trump said of the disruptions.

At some events, altercations have turned physical. In New Orleans last week, several protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were dragged out as Trump shouted "get them." In Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Wednesday, protesters interrupted Trump's speech more than 16 times. One was punched as he was led from the arena.

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Jedidiah Brown, 29, dashed onto the Chicago stage where Trump was expected to speak Friday and tore the campaign sign from the podium before police took him outside. He was not arrested.

"I was born and raised in Chicago so I felt it was my responsibility to let him know he's not welcome here," Brown said. "The message Trump is spreading all over the country, it doesn't work here."

Outside, Tess King, 25, a social sciences and law student, was carrying a sign that said "Chicago Rejects Trump." King had tried to get into the rally but the event was canceled before she got in the door.

"I feel incredibly happy that in our city we managed, through peaceful expression, to make this happen," King told Reuters.

As the crowd began to trickle out, Josh Glaspie, 28, smoked a cigarette on a sidewalk strewn with discarded signs. Glaspie, an Army veteran who is trying to open a restaurant in Chicago, said he supports Trump.

"Trump's not racist," Glaspie said. "These people don't even know why they're protesting." (Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson, Eric Walsh and Amanda Becker; Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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