I haven’t figured out quite yet how anybody is going to beat Donald Trump, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.
The protesters who caused Trump to cancel his Friday night rally at the UIC Pavilion erupted in elation at the announcement and took to the arena floor to celebrate.
I’m not sure what they were celebrating.
You can’t shut up Trump by shouting him down. Maybe for an hour. But his chance to speak is never further away than the next microphone.
As this campaign has shown, hating on Trump’s hate only makes him stronger and only makes his supporters more resolute.
“This makes me want to vote for him more,” said 19-year-old Dalton Thompson, a Southern Illinois University student from Geneva.
Thompson was just one of probably 5,000-6,000 Trump backers who looked on glumly and angrily in the aftermath of the surprise cancellation.
“We’re not backing down. We want to make America great again,” said his friend, A.J. Siddiqui, a 21-year-old Muslim from St. Charles.
Trump will take those sentiments and magnify them a million-fold to his national audience, which will only feed off him being mistreated in Barack Obama’s hometown while Rahm Emanuel’s police stood watch.
Trump’s rise has reminded me of some long-ago Star Trek episode where the beast gained strength through the negative energy expended by those trying to kill it.
There was a lot of negative energy being expended inside and outside the UIC Pavilion.
To be clear, I’m glad people came out to protest Trump. I was hoping for it.
But as I watched an elderly man with a walker trying in vain to return to his car because idiots were running wild through the parking garage where many of Trump’s fans parked their cars, I was ashamed.
“This is what free speech looks like!” shouted a leader of the protesters on his megaphone while the old man asked the police if it was safe yet to get to his car.
I hope this isn’t what free speech looks like.
Look, Donald Trump has no business being president, and I think his supporters are misguided at best.
But they weren’t the ugly ones on this night.
I’m not 100 percent sure it was necessary for Trump to postpone the event, but it was probably wise given the outburst after the cancellation announcement.
From the moment I arrived at the Pavilion 90 minutes before the scheduled start, it was evident protesters had obtained tickets to the event and were planning to enter the arena.
When one of the protesters was forcibly removed by police, other protesters began to chant, “Let him stay,” revealing a larger contingent. But they were shouted down by chants of “We love Trump.”
After that another dozen or so were removed one at a time for infractions that were unclear from the press bullpen. At that point, I was still on their side.
By and large, I thought things were under control as long as the group didn’t react en masse when Trump arrived.
If they had, however, it could have got ugly real fast, and judging by the aftermath, that’s a real possibility.
Many of those who were celebrating on the arena floor were shouting “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” and taunting Trump’s supporters as they tore up Trump signs.
Sanders should disavow them and offer a lesson in the proper exercise of free speech.
Outside, the protest leader was still on his bullhorn.
“Who won?” he asked.
“We won!” came the chant from the hundreds still massed in the street.
I don’t think so.