Reprinted from WSWS
The series of violent incidents at rallies for billionaire Donald Trump is a warning of the increasingly fascistic character of the Republican front-runner's campaign.
On Wednesday, at a rally near Fayetteville, North Carolina, a supporter of Trump attacked a 26-year-old black man, Rakeem Jones, as he was being escorted out of the Crown Coliseum by Cumberland County sheriff's deputies. Jones was one of a small group of anti-Trump protesters at the event.
The attacker, 78-year-old John McGraw, punched Jones in the face, knocking him down. Afterwards, McGraw boasted of the attack. He told a television interviewer, "You bet I liked it," adding, "He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him... He might be with a terrorist organization." McGraw was subsequently arrested and charged with battery.
At a press conference Friday morning in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump defended the attack, blaming it on the victim. "It was a guy who was swinging -- was very loud -- and then started swinging at the audience," the billionaire real estate mogul said. "And you know what? It swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate."
The attack in North Carolina was followed by physical confrontations between Trump supporters and some of the thousands of protesters who attended a planned Trump rally in Chicago Friday evening. The event was called off at the last minute. In interviews later in the evening, Trump said that if the rally had gone forward, "someone might have been killed."
Earlier this week, when Michelle Fields, a reporter for the right-wing Breitbart.com web site, tried to approach Trump after a Florida rally, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her by the arm and shoved her away, an assault witnessed by several journalists.
These incidents follow a pattern in which protesters at or outside Trump rallies have been physically attacked by Trump supporters, including members of white supremacist groups, and Trump security guards, or forcibly ejected by police. Last week a young black woman who brought an anti-Trump sign to a rally was attacked physically and cursed with racist and sexist epithets. Her sign was ripped up and she was frog-marched out of the rally.
Trump has repeatedly incited violence against protesters, beginning last fall but with increasing frequency once the primaries and caucuses began:
~ On February 1, he told a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, "If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of 'em, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees."
~ On February 22, at a rally in Las Vegas, Trump denounced a protester, saying, "I'd like to punch him in the face, I tell ya." He added, "You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher."
~ On March 9, in Fayetteville, he said of interruptions by protesters, "See, in the good old days this didn't used to happen, because they used to treat them very rough. We've become very weak." Shortly thereafter, the assault on Rakeem Jones occurred.
In the course of Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Florida, CNN moderator Jake Tapper quoted these statements and asked Trump whether he had done anything to "create a tone" that encouraged violence.
Trump blandly denied the obvious. Blaming the victims, he said the protesters had provoked his supporters. "People come with tremendous passion and love for the country, and when they see protest, in some cases... They have anger," he declared.
None of Trump's three remaining rivals, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, or Ohio Governor John Kasich, pursued the issue. On the contrary, Cruz expressed sympathy with "the frustration that is boiling over." Rubio declared that police officers "deserve our respect," although the question was about right-wing thug attacks.
This evasion characterized the approach of Cruz, Rubio and Kasich to the debate as a whole, in which they did little to challenge Trump's status as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. There was no repetition of previous declarations that the billionaire demagogue was unfit to hold office or represented a threat to democracy.