When asked about instances of protesters being attacked by supporters at his rallies, such as an instance in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, Republican front-runner Donald Trump proposed on Sunday’s “This Week” that protesters and violent supporters should share blame for the physical altercations.
“We don’t condone violence. And I say it,” Trump said on ABC. “And we have very little violence, very, very little violence at the rallies.”
Trump went on to say that the protesters were “professional agitators” who were impeding on free speech.
“They’re really stopping our First Amendment rights,” he said of demonstrators in Phoenix, Arizona, who blocked traffic. “They blocked a road. They put their cars in front of a road. We had thousands and thousands of people wanting to come. They were delayed for an hour because of these protesters. And, you know, at what point do people blame the protesters?”
George Stephanopoulos then asked the candidate to clarify whether he was blaming the protesters for violent acts instead of the supporters who had punched and kicked them.
“I’m saying this,” Trump said. “These are professional agitators, and I think that somebody should say that when a road is blocked going into the event so that people have to wait sometimes hours to get in, I think that’s very fair, and they should be blamed there, too.”
Trump linked the protesters’ signs to violence, saying the speech was objectionable.
“When signs are put up, lifted up, with tremendous profanity on them, I mean the worst profanity, and you have television cameras all over the place. And people see these signs. I think maybe those people have some blame and should suffer some blame also.”
“It’s a very unfair double standard,” Trump said.
The Trump campaign has been accused by both Republicans and Democrats of fostering an atmosphere of violence. Trump rallies have been canceled in anticipation of violent outbursts, and physical altercations have broken out at events in Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina and Utah.
Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has also been a subject of controversy over the past weeks. The campaign refuted Lewandowski’s involvement in an incident of a protester being yanked back at an Arizona rally on Saturday, as well as allegations that he grabbed a female reporter at an event in Florida.
On ABC on Sunday, Trump questioned the focus on protesters being punched rather than the disruption of his events.
“Why don’t you mention the fact that people were delayed for an hour to get into an arena and the only road going there that they were delayed for an hour because people were blocking the road?” Trump said. “And why don’t you say, in Tucson, where the people were blocking the main entrance into the arena? It’s very unfair.”