Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump plans a rally in Kansas City on Saturday, a day after a campaign event in Chicago was canceled because it devolved into chaos.
Downtown streets around the Power & Light District already were expected to be congested because of the 5 p.m. championship game of the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center. Now Trump is scheduled to appear at 6 p.m. at the nearby Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, 1228 Main St.
Sen. Ted Cruz also will hold a rally at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 9103 E. 39th St. He plans three other campaign events Saturday in Missouri.
Trump canceled his Friday night rally in Chicago because of security concerns related to clashes between his supporters and protesters.
Upon arriving in Chicago, Trump met with law enforcement officials, and the campaign decided to postpone the event.
When the cancellation was announced to thousands gathered at the arena on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Trump supporters booed and chanted “USA!” and “We want Trump!” Supporters and protesters could be seen pushing and yelling at one another.
In the hours before the rally was scheduled to begin, thousands of protesters had gathered outside the arena, which seats about 7,000 and was near capacity for the event. Dozens of protesters made it inside and were escorted out by law enforcement.
Outside, opponents chanted,“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a Democrat from Chicago, rallied several hundred Trump opponents from a stage across the street from the arena.
No injuries were reported.
Trump’s campaign announced that the candidate decided to cancel the event for the safety of thousands of people who had gathered around the arena.
“You can’t have a rally in a major city in this country without violence or the threat of violence,” Trump said on CNN. “Whatever happened to free speech?”
Trump attributed the disorder to deep-seated anger among Americans over the economy.
“We have a country that’s so divided,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. This has been going on for years.
“On one side, you’ve got people who haven’t had a pay increase in 10 years, frankly,” Trump continued. “And the businesses are moving out of the country, and they’re upset and they’re angry. On the other side, you have people that feel differently about other elements. It all comes together. You see it all over.”
Trump, who has been accused of encouraging supporters to confront protesters at his rallies, noted that in the statement announcing the event would not be held as scheduled, he urged attendees to “go in peace.”
“I think this was a lot better than if we had the rally go through,” he said. “There’s so much anger in the country. I mean, it’s just anger in the country. … I don’t think it’s directed at me or anything. It’s been directed at what’s been going on for years. And it’s on both sides.
“There’s a lot of anger in the country, and it’s very sad to see, actually.”
Trouble on Friday had started earlier in the day at a Trump rally in St. Louis, where the candidate taunted protesters who interrupted him.
“They’re allowed to get up and interrupt us horribly, and we have to be very, very gentle,” Trump said in response to one of nearly a dozen interruptions as he spoke at the regal Peabody Opera House. “They can swing and hit people, but if we hit them back, it’s a terrible, terrible thing, right?”
Police later said 31 people were arrested and charged with general peace disturbance, and one person was charged outside the venue with third-degree assault.
Trump has faced intensifying criticism for the violent clashes between supporters and protesters that have come to define his rallies. Throughout his speech in St. Louis, Trump was deeply critical of the protesters, panning them as weak “troublemakers,” ordering them to “go home to Mommy” or “go home and get a job” because “they contribute nothing.”
Before Friday night’s events in Chicago, city officials in Kansas City said they expected little difficulty in holding all of the events Saturday. And it was unclear whether any of the unrest playing out Friday night would be repeated.
Asked about the prospects for trouble Saturday, Mayor Sly James took to Twitter. The mayor’s advice was to “avoid conflict. If you are concerned, don’t go. If you go, don’t engage. Act like Kansas Citians,” he said.
“He has a right to appear and campaign, but it would be prudent for him to avoid priming the pump like he has,” James continued.
Other GOP candidates seeking the party’s nomination in the 2016 presidential election criticized Trump for what happened in Chicago.
His chief rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, said before addressing a suburban Chicago dinner that Trump set the tone for his fractious supporters. He invoked the memory of the city’s riotous 1968 Democratic convention.
“Responsibility starts at the top,” Cruz said.“Any candidate is responsible for the culture of the campaign. When you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a 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.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN that he thought the protests were part of an "organized effort to disrupt a rally. This is not some organic protest."
"But putting that aside for a moment, the tone and tenor of Donald Trump's rallies over the last few months has been disturbing to a lot of people," he continued.
Rubio added, "If you're running for president, you have to understand that that kind of rhetoric from a president -- or a major presidential candidate -- has ramifications," Rubio said. "The images that the world must be looking at now must seem to them like our republic is fracturing."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich also blamed Trump in a statement released the Kasich campaign.
"Tonight, the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly," he said. "Some let their opposition to his views slip beyond protest into violence, but we can never let that happen."
In Kansas City, a Facebook page organizing opposition to Trump’s Saturday appearance called for people to begin protesting at The Midland at 3 p.m.
The page, called “Trump Out of KC!” showed more than 200 people planning to attend.
City spokesman Chris Hernandez said the Kansas City Police Department is ready for Saturday’s events.
“I think for any type of political rally, sporting event or festival, our police are always prepared for any type of contingency or any situation that may develop,” Hernandez said.
Before Friday night, the main concerns about Saturday’s events seemed to be traffic and parking.
Parking wasn’t expected to be a problem, city officials said.
Kansas City parking services manager Bruce Campbell said there are thousands of parking spaces in garages and on the street in downtown Kansas City. And since it’s a weekend, the office workers who fill up many of those spaces during the workweek won’t be a factor.
“The bigger issue might be (road) congestion getting to the parking,” Campbell said.
Hernandez said people coming to the Trump rally are urged to approach The Midland from the north and to look for parking north of the theater downtown. That should alleviate overcrowding and congestion with fans heading to the Sprint Center, which is south and east of The Midland.
Star news services contributed to this report.