Oh Yes, Donald Trump Definitely Encourages Violence—Here’s the Evidence
There has been escalating violence at Donald Trump rallies--incident after incident of protesters getting shouted down with crude, offensive language as well as getting shoved, punched, kicked, tackled, stripped of their signs, dragged by their hair, and more.
On Friday, Trump canceled a rally in Chicago amid a vigorous protest where protesters clashed with rally-goers.
Donald Trump calls off Chicago rally following violent clashes.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 12, 2016
We haven't seen political violence like this in America in years.
Just saw a clip of a Korean War vet (in uniform) repeatedly shoving a protestor at a Trump rally. Saddest thing I've ever witnessed? Close.
— LMR (@LilMissRightie) March 10, 2016
— Lauren Mialki (@laurenmialki) March 11, 2016
(And in case you're wondering, similar things are happening in other countries too.)
Trump surrogates say this disturbing trend isn't Trump’s fault.
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) March 12, 2016
And if you do protest, you get what's coming to you.
But Trump is enjoying every second of this. Absolutely basking in it.
Trump on protesters: "it makes it more exciting."
— tonydokoupil (@tonydokoupil) March 13, 2016
Here's the thing: The violence at Trump rallies is absolutely Donald Trump's fault.
— brendan james (@deep_beige) March 14, 2016
There are angry, impassioned people all along the political spectrum, supporting every candidate. Trump supporters are particularly hateful, and particularly violent, precisely because he models the behavior he wants to see. He spurs it on, laughs about it, and rewards it.
Protesters trying to shut down free speech are fascists at heart. Just because I don't like Trump doesn't change that math.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 13, 2016
Trump fuels both violent rhetoric AND physical violence. Here’s how.
1. "There used to be consequences"
Many already suspect Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is code for "it would be great if we went back to a time when white men were clearly in charge." And Trump's crusade against political correctness often sounds like a campaign against tolerance and respect for minorities, a way of shutting down accusations of bigotry and sexism.
Listen to Trump justify violence and link it to his supporters' anti-PC stance:
"They're being politically correct the way they take them out. Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences. There are none anymore."
This is Trump basically giving his supporters permission to dole out "consequences" to protesters, so they get what they really deserve.
When protestors are called "dangerous" but the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic man they're protesting against isn't. #TrumpRallyChi
— rachel ní fhearaigh (@rachnifhearaigh) March 12, 2016
2. "Our country has to toughen up"
Here's Trump calling protesters at his rallies "these people" who are "bad for our country" and "bringing us down," and justifying violence against them by saying, simply, "we have to toughen up":
"Our country has to toughen up, folks. We have to toughen up. These people are bringing us down. They are bringing us down. These people are so bad for our country, you have no idea."
BTW, he said this at a rally in St. Louis, Missouri, not far from Ferguson, where intense Black Lives Matter protests have raged numerous times in the past 18 months over racial inequality and disproportionately high rates of police brutality against black men and women.
Many--though far from all--of protesters at Trump rallies have been black, and numerous protesters of color have been roughed up.
He has also talked, in a mocking tone, about "being gentle" to protesters.
2. “People are angry”
"The people are angry. ... They're not angry about something I'm saying. I'm just the messenger."
That's Trump explaining away his supporters' violent rhetoric and actions and excusing his own role: They're angry, and hey, don't look at me, I'm just the messenger.
Numerous times, both Trump and his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski--who himself got rough with a reporter--have described violent Trump supporters as "very passionate."
When children are angry and act out physically or lash out verbally, parents and teachers show them how to channel their frustrations in constructive ways. Trump does the opposite with his supporters: He eggs them on and tells the world to excuse them because they're angry and passionate. (While calling angry and passionate anti-Trump protesters "very bad.")
3. "I'd like to punch him in the face"
"I'd like to punch him in the face."
And not only that--he also justified and celebrated the punching of the protester:
“He was a guy who was swinging, very loud, and he started swinging. And you know what? The audience swung back, and it was very appropriate. He was swinging, he was hitting people, and the audience hit back. That’s what we need a little bit more of.”
This is a stark, unsubtle directive to followers: We need "more" hitting back at protesters.
Oh, and was this protester "swinging" before he got punched? There's no evidence that he was. The Trump supporter started throwing punches at a protester, Rakeem Jones, who was being led out by security. Jones wasn't swinging at anyone.
And Trump didn't stop there. He also said this about Rakeem Jones:
"Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."
And after Bernie Sanders let Black Lives Matter demonstrators briefly take over an event, Trump vowed he'd never let that happen at one of his own events--because he'd beat them up himself if his supporters didn't:
"I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself, or if other people will."
In Trump logic, it's "bad" and "disgusting" to protest Trump. But if you protest a protester by hitting them, that's just anger and passion showing through. And he might just get violent himself, but if he doesn't, surely someone will do it for him, hint hint nudge nudge. Got it?
4. "Knock the hell out of them. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees"
Trump doesn't only use rhetoric to stoke violence. He uses his wallet, too. He explicitly told Trump rally-goers to go ahead and target protesters and not worry about it because he'd take care of their legal fees. Here's what he said:
“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise. They won’t be so much, because the courts agree with us too — what’s going on in this country.”
And he's not kidding. When asked about this promise later in a TV interview, Trump said:
“I've actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”
Calling all impassioned, angry, violent Trump backers! When you see a protester you think is maybe possibly about to throw a tomato or something, go ahead and "knock the crap out them," and I'll pay your legal fees!
5. "I've been a little childish"
Trump has admitted his language can be "a little childish."
But for years now, Trump has played bully and has used name-calling to denigrate political rivals and others whose views he doesn't like. His favorite epithets are “dummy,” “dopey,” “stupid,” “loser,” “liar,” and “sad!”
Kids themselves recognize that he's rude and crude.
Name-calling and shaming are well-documented types of verbal and emotional bullying, known to cause psychological and emotional problems in victims.
According to our future president, Ted Cruz is a pussy & Mitt Romney would have blown him if he’d asked.
— David Roberts (@drvox) March 3, 2016
Sometimes Trump sneakily mocks people by saying something cruel by saying he's not saying it.
I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
Trump launching into another criticism of Jeb: "I was going to say ‘dummy' Bush, I won’t say it."
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) January 26, 2016
Aggressive behaviors ranging from taunting all the way to threatening physical violence are bullying, plain and simple. These are trademark Donald Trump behaviors, and many of his supporters are using them at his events. This is violent rhetoric. He's the head bully, and his supporters follow his lead.
Trump is the real victim here. Trump's violent rhetoric leading to his supporters' fists running into protester's heads - not his fault.
— K. Alexander Ashe (@ka_ashe) March 13, 2016
What we're seeing happening at Trump events is the classic cycle of what happens when you're "actively engaging with bullies or cheering them on":
"It also encourages the antisocial behavior of the bully. Over time, it puts the bystanders at risk of becoming desensitized to cruelty or becoming full-fledged bullies themselves. If bystanders see the bully as a popular, strong, daring role model, they are more likely to imitate the bully."
This is the Trump effect. His supporters see him as strong, a leader who tells it like it is, who represents the angry, "silent majority." They cheer him on. And they've become not only blind to his cruelty--they enjoy it, they cheer at it--and they imitate it.
Like telling protesters to “Go to Auschwitz”:
And “Go back to Africa”:
Reminder you probably don't need: These are things that were actually said by the guy who is far and away the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.
If this disturbs you, here are 4 things you can do:
Holly Epstein Ojalvo
Holly’s mission is to inform, inspire, and empower engaged activists who will change the world. She was previously an editor at The New York Times and a high school teacher. She spent her brief 20’s slump at a mousepad factory. Holly earned a B.A. at Lafayette College and M.A.'s at U Delaware and NYU. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, daughter, and cat, Tomie Twotone. Follow: @heoj.