(Photo obtained from the New York Times, taken by the Associated Press)
On Saturday, dozens of protesters blocked traffic near a Donald Trump event in Arizona. Three protesters were arrested and two cars were towed. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joaquin Enriquez stressed that the arrests were for blocking the road, not for protesting. Regarding the blockage, Trump stated, “I think it’s really unfair that these, really, in many cases professional, in many cases sick, protestors can put cars in a road blocking thousands of great Americans from coming to a speech, and nobody says anything about that. It’s a very unfair double standard.”
The rally was also marked by violence, including one of the most violent confrontations at a Trump appearance. 32-year-old Tony Pettway was caught on video punching and kicking a protester and charged with assault and injury. The incident took place when an anti-Trump protester wearing an American flag shirt and holding a sign that read “Trump is Bad for America” was being escorted out of the rally.
In response to the incident, Trump refused to condemn the assault, claiming that the victim had been accompanied by another protester provocatively wearing a KKK costume: “There's a disgusting guy, puts on a Ku Klux Klan hat on, he thinks he is cute -- he's a disgusting guy, These are not good people, folks. They're throwing the flag all over the place... And they're not really protesters, they're agitators.”
Other Republican leaders, however, including Senator Mitch McConnell suggested that Trump should do more to calm his crowds. Republican national chairman Reince Priebus said it was a mistake for the campaign staff to get involved with the violence: “As far as everyone getting involved in the crowds, leave it to the professionals.” McConnell added, “I think all the candidates for president ought to be discouraging that kind of activity because the people in the audience tend to listen to those who are speaking. We ought to condemn this kind of violence and encourage the American people to engage in this political debate in a respectful way.”
So who’s to blame here? On one hand, perhaps Trump’s argument that the protesters should not have been blocking the road holds some merit. Regarding the violence, however, were the protesters being excessively provocative? To what extent should Trump be held responsible for the actions of his followers?