Violence at Trump rallies took center stage over the weekend following a confrontation between protesters and supporters in Chicago, prompting the candidate to cancel the event due to “security concerns.” Former GOP hopeful Ben Carson — who endorsed Donald Trump for president on Friday — today said there’s a real possibility the violence surrounding the Trump campaign could escalate, and placed the blame squarely on the protesters.
Carson said that the protesters were victimizing Trump supporters, who then were essentially left only with the choice of fighting back or being pushovers.
“There is a real possibility of escalation, because those who are the victim of them have two choices, they can submit and do whatever those protesters want them to do, or they can fight back,” he said on the Today show. “And if they decide to fight back, there could be an escalation.”
Carson blamed the violence on the protesters’ ignorance and violation of First Amendment rights.
“The problem is that there are those who are being taught that if someone disagrees with you, you have the right to interfere with their First Amendment rights, their ability to express themselves, their freedom of speech” he said. “Now when people do things wrong, such as that, it causes people to react in a way that is negative.”
Not only does Carson’s defense misunderstand the First Amendment — which protects the right to free speech for everyone, including the protesters, and does not guarantee the right to speak without protest or criticism — he shifts attention from the role Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has played in encouraging the violence.
At a press conference on Friday, Donald Trump called the assault of protesters "very, very appropriate." At a rally in St. Louis later in the day, he bemoaned the fact that there were no longer "consequences" for protesting. “Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long [to kick them out] is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” he said.
Early this month, as a protester was removed from a rally Trump said "I'd like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you that" to wild applause from the crowd. Last week at a rally, a young African American protester was sucker-punched at a rally, then handcuffed by police and escorted from the venue. The older white man who punched him was allowed to stay and only later arrested; Donald Trump has since said he may pay the man's legal fees.