Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said Friday night that primary frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign is responsible for creating an environment that encourages violence after a Trump rally was cancelled because clashes broke out when protestors entered the event.
Speaking at a press conference, Cruz told reporters he "thinks a campaign bears responsibility for creating an environment [of violence]. When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that it escalates."
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Cruz warned that violence will likely continue to take place at future Trump events, citing an incident in St. Louis earlier that same day when at least 32 people were arrested after attendees at a Trump event clashed with protestors.
"That’s not how our politics should occur," Cruz said. "It is my hope that in 2016 we can appeal to our better angels [and] avoid going down that road once again."
Trump was supposed to speak at the University of Illinois at Chicago in a pavilion that was filled to capacity, but a large group of protestors entered the venue and disturbed the proceedings.
The protestors appeared to be supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), a self-declared socialist running in the Democratic primary. They held up pro-Sanders signs and could be heard chanting "Bernie, Bernie, Bernie!"
The situation escalated to the point where fights broke out, and the entire event deteriorated into a chaotic situation. A speaker came to the podium to announce that Trump had met with law enforcement and decided it was better to postpone the event for the safety of those present.
At least 7,000 people were in the pavilion at the time of the protest, and about 10,000 people had tickets to attend the rally. The protest soon spilt out onto the street, with around 1,000 people remaining.
While Trump later said on television he consulted with local law enforcement before making his decision, Anthony Guglielmia, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, denied Trump’s claim, saying that neither the police nor the university recommended cancelling the rally. There was sufficient manpower at the event to handle the situation, according to Guglielmia, who added that the cancellation was decided solely by the campaign.
Cruz also addressed Trump’s policy ideas at his press conference after a reporter asked if the protestors are fueled by the GOP frontrunner’s proposals.
"Finding Donald Trump’s policies is a difficult endeavour," Cruz responded with a smile. "Because Donald speaks of problems. He speaks about jobs going overseas, but when asked for a policy to fix it, he has yet to propose one – other than his magic cure-all of negotiate better deals. ‘We’ll have better deals to solve every problem.’ I don’t think that is a meaningful solution to the problems we are facing."
Cruz then said the United States needs strong economic policies to bring jobs back to the country and raise wages for workers, adding that his campaign is focused on substantive proposals to make those goals a reality.
"We fix the economy by lifting the burdens on small businesses because two-thirds of all new jobs come from small businesses," Cruz said. "And we do that through repealing Obamacare, through pulling back the federal regulators that are making it harder and harder for small businesses to survive. And we do that through passing a simple flat tax and abolishing the IRS. Those are meaningful policies that will bring back jobs and raise wages."
Cruz also said during the press conference that the Republican primary is now a two-man race between him and Trump in an effort to portray himself as the best chance for conservative voters to keep the real estate mogul from the nomination.
Trump is currently leading the Republican presidential race with 459 delegates, which is 99 more than Cruz, who has 360. Rubio is third with 152 delegates.
A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to secure the nomination.