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Donald Trump has a lot to say about the 'organised thugs' interrupting his rallies

The Republican presidential candidate is threatening to press charges against demonstrators disrupting his campaign events.

Demonstrators disrupt a Trump rally in Kansas City yesterday.
Demonstrators disrupt a Trump rally in Kansas City yesterday.
Image: Nati Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

DONALD TRUMP HAS trained his fire on the protesters disrupting his rallies, branding them “thugs” and extremists, as White House rivals warned the Republican’s heated rhetoric was dangerously fanning tensions.

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton issued a stern warning a day after a Trump rally in Chicago was called off amid scenes of violence, with days to go until a crucial round of nomination votes on Tuesday.

“If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control. That’s not leadership, that’s political arson,” Clinton said.

But Trump dismissed the notion his extreme statements on immigrants and Muslims had exacerbated tensions, placing the blame squarely on “organised thugs” and saying he’s “going to start pressing charges against all these people”.

After a demonstrator tried to rush on stage during Trump’s rally in Dayton, Ohio, the candidate made unverified claims that the man was linked to the Islamic State group.

“So, the judge let him go. And then one of my people said, wow. They found his name, and it was probably Isis or Isis-related. Do you believe it? Certainly, he’s not in love with our country, that I can tell you, okay?” Trump said.

According to the Dayton Daily news website, the man in question is a 22-year-old anti-racism activist named Thomas Dimassimo, who was filmed last year taking part in a protest that involved students standing on American flags, holding signs saying, “Not my flag”.

In support of his claim, Trump tweeted a link to a video of the flag protest, dubbed over with Islamic chants in what appeared to be a crude hoax intended to suggest ties to extremism.

Palpable tension

Earlier, Trump had described the Chicago skirmishes as a “planned attack” by organised agitators against his supporters – the “nice folks”.

GOP 2016 Trump Trump speaks in Kansas City. Source: Nati Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

He blamed “our communist friend”, the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, who has urged Trump to act against violence at his rallies and said he never encouraged his backers to disrupt them.

“Where do these people come from?” Trump asked. “They’re Bernie’s crowd.”

Friday’s violence flared after throngs of protesters – many of them blacks and Latinos angered by Trump’s anti-immigrant stance – massed at the Chicago venue in a tense standoff with the candidate’s own supporters, with fistfights breaking out as the meeting was called off.

Trump hosted two huge meetings yesterday in the heartland state of Ohio and one in Kansas, which passed off without major troubles, but in a climate of palpable tension with groups of protesters picketing the various venues.

In Cleveland, protesters gathered outside the cavernous exhibition centre hosting Trump’s rally holding signs that read “Dump Trump!” and “Donald Trump: Making America Hate Again”.

Half a dozen police on horseback watched from a distance a heated verbal exchange between several black protesters and mostly white Trump supporters who yelled in their faces: “Get a job! Get a job!”

The evening rally in Kansas City was repeatedly disrupted by protests.

“Get ‘em out,” Trump said. “I hope they arrest these people, because they’re really violating all of us, okay?” he said, vowing to press charges.

Make-or-break 

Yesterday’s campaign stops came three days ahead of key elections expect to further winnow the Republican field, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich both facing make-or-break tests in their home states.

GOP 2016 Trump A Trump supporter reacts to demonstrators yesterday. Source: Nati Harnik/AP/Press Association Images

Trump’s three remaining rivals for the Republican nomination — Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich – seized a chance to bring the frontrunner down a notch and unanimously condemned the rally chaos.

But many in the party see Tuesday’s votes as the last best chance to derail Trump’s insurgent candidacy.

Cruz scored a small victory yesterday against Trump, trouncing him with 66.3% of the vote in the Wyoming Republican caucus, against 19.5% for Rubio and just 7.2% for Trump.

That hands Cruz nine more delegates for the Republican national convention. Cruz also picked up one delegate in Guam, though the US island territory’s five other delegates remain uncommitted. Rubio won the caucuses in the US capital Washington.

But the reality TV star, who has never served in elected office, has so far won 15 of 27 early contests – to the despair of the Republican establishment.

- © AFP, 2016

Read: Secret service agents jump on stage at Trump rally after scuffle

Read: Hillary Clinton apologises over comments about Nancy Reagan and AIDS

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