President Barack Obama should bear partial blame for the violent incidents that keep happening at Donald Trump’s rallies, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed. Rubio’s comments followed an incident involving protesters who clashed with Trump supporters at a rally in Chicago, Illinois, prompting the presidential front-runner to cancel his appearance due to security concerns.
Speaking on Fox News on Friday, Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, claimed that Obama’s speeches on racial inequality over the past eight years resulted in dividing Americans “along haves and have-nots, along ethnic and racial lines, gender lines.” One of those speeches Rubio is likely alluding to was made last year after the racially-motivated shooting of nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina-area church.
“I think this has gone to the next level here, and we’re seeing the consequences of it,” Rubio continued. “That, in combination with the fact that I think there’s a need to remind people that the First Amendment allows people to disagree with issues and say things you don’t agree with, which is obviously being lost here. And then this sort of sense here on the left that if you don’t like what someone is saying, you have the right to shut them down, as you see happen on many college campuses across America. And you saw there tonight in there in Chicago.”
Rubio shifted his message as he later took to CNN to point out that Trump and other actors involved were also at fault. “We have reached a breaking point in our politics,” Rubio said, casting blame on who he believed to be paid, professional protesters and Trump himself for espousing a divisive message. He also specifically called out Trump on MSNBC on Friday, noting that the violence that happened in Chicago are “consequences to the words” used by presidential candidates.
“He bears responsibility for… the general tone and atmosphere of his campaign, which has been about things like the reason why things are going wrong in your life or in this country is because of this group of people versus that group of people,” Rubio said on CNN.
But the chaotic scene that broke out in Chicago is just the latest incident sparked at Trump rallies where violent confrontations between supporters and protesters have become increasingly common. Since his campaign began, Trump has often made offensive, denigrating remarks about Muslims, immigrants, and Black Lives Matter protesters. Since last year, Trump supporters have beat up and used racial slurs against peaceful protesters.
Trump has also implicitly and explicitly condoned the violence that happens at his rallies. The Trump campaign has repeatedly denied roughing up a female reporter at the right-wing Breitbart News. After two drunk brothers beat up a homeless Latino man last year, Trump called his supporters “passionate.” Supporters have also sucker-punched peaceful black protesters being led out of a rally. Trump called the violent response to the Chicago protesters “very appropriate.”
Other presidential contenders have instead laid the blame squarely on Trump. John Kasich (R-OH) indicated that “the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also stated that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric was responsible for “creating an environment, when the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence to punch people in the face.”