Bernie Sanders said Saturday his backers did not ignite the Friday night clash that led to the cancellation of Donald Trump’s rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Meanwhile, Trump accused Sanders’ supporters in the UIC crowd, of triggering the melee at campaign stops in Ohio – which has a Tuesday primary vote, as does Illinois.

“I don’t think our supporters are inciting.” Sanders said, commenting Saturday morning on the Trump rally at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive.

“What our supporters are doing is responding to a candidate who has, in fact in many ways encouraged violence,” Sanders said. “When he talks about, things like you know, ‘I wish we were in the old days when you could punch somebody in the head.’ What do you think that says to his supporters? “

Mentioning other incidents, including one a few days ago where an African-American man was sucker-punched by a Trump backer as he was being led out, Sanders said.

“The issue now is that Donald Trump has got to be loud and clear and tell his supporters that violence at rallies is not what America is about and to end it,” Sanders said.

Later, at a stop at a traditional pre-election meeting at the Rainbow PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th, Sanders said Trump is setting dangerous precedents.

“What Trump is doing is incredibly dangerous in so many ways. How do you have a president of the United States who insults black Americans…how do you have a president insulting Muslims, one of the largest religions in the world,” Sanders said.

Sanders said Trump is attracting “older white” voters who are disenchanted with the economy.

As the day went on, Trump accused Sanders’ supporters of helping to trigger the violence.

“Some represented Bernie, our communist friend,” Trump said in Dayton.

In Cleveland, Trump said, “You know where they come from? Bernie’s crowd. They’re Bernie’s crowd.”

After that, Sanders went after Trump, saying in a press release, “As is the case virtually every day, Donald Trump is showing the American people that he is a pathological liar. Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests.”

REACTION

Everyone on Saturday deplored the uproar.

What is not clear yet is the political impact – if the melee in Chicago and at other Trump rallies helps or hurts the GOP frontrunner with votes Tuesday in Illinois and four other states.

And in the Democratic primary, there is the potential that Trump rallies energizes Bernie Sander voters to the disadvantage of Hillary Clinton.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL:

“I believe his divisive language undermines the very values of what makes this country great. There is enough challenges…A president must be a symbol of bringing the country together, united to meet the challenges,”  Emanuel said before he stepped off on the front of the line at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

He added that n Friday night at UIC, the “Chicago Police Department, the men and women, they did our city proud.

GOV. BRUCE RAUNER:

Rauner, interviewed just before the kick-off of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade here said, “There is no place for violence in our political process. There is no place for violence in our political discourse.”

Asked if the actions of protesters boost or depress turnout in Illinois, Rauner said, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you.

SEN. DICK DURBIN:

Durbin D-Ill. also at the parade said, “I don’t know what kind of impact this will have on turnout. This really saddens me. I think Trump is divisive and disgusting. But I don’t think there is ever a justification for violence and I don’t believe shouting someone down is an exercise in free speech.

“If you have a grievance with Trump, and I sure do, take it to the ballot box, not the barricade.”

COOK COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT TONI PRECKWINKLE:

Asked about the Trump rally impact on turnout, Preckwinkle, also in the front line of the parade, said, “Probably both sides will be more engaged.”

CONTRIBUTING: TINA SFONDELES