Donald Trump repeated his claim Friday that protesters at his rallies have been violent, the same day that protesters and supporters clashed outside his rally in St. Louis.
After being criticized for the increasingly physical response to protests from his supporters, Trump has argued in recent days that the protesters were the ones who were in fact the aggressors. Before his rally in St. Louis, protesters and supporters exchanged insults, leading to at least one shouting match that almost turned into a fistfight, MSNBC reported. One person was arrested.
“We’ve had some violent people as protesters,” Trump said at a press conference earlier in the day. “These are people that punch. These are violent people.”
The line echoed his argument from Thursday’s debate, when he said some protesters are “bad dudes” who have “done bad things.”
“They are swinging, they are really dangerous, and they get in there and they start hitting people,” he claimed.
But until Friday, all of the evidence that had surfaced of Trump rallies showed his supporters as the instigators. A protester at a rally in October was dragged to the ground and kicked where he lay. In November, a protester in Birmingham, Alabama, was kicked, punched and choked. A Trump supporter has been charged with assault after videos of a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Thursday showed him sucker-punching a protester who was already being led away.
By contrast, the protesters have often been either peaceful or have simply shouted slogans before they were attacked. Some say they weren’t even protesting.
When protesters interrupted Trump’s speech at the St. Louis rally, he lamented that “there used to be consequences” for protesting, Politico reported.
“These people are so bad for our country, folks. You have no idea,” he said. “They contribute nothing. Nothing. And look at the police, they take their lives in their hands.”
The protester who was kicked at the October rally was part of a group who held up signs and shouted about immigration. The demonstrator in Alabama called out, “Black lives matter.” And the man who was punched in North Carolina claims he wasn’t even protesting at all, that the crowd at the event began screaming at his friends unprovoked which led them to be kicked out.
At Thursday’s debate, Trump said that he does not condone the violence and “truly hope[s]” that he has not inspired it.