03/11/2016 07:58 pm ET
CHICAGO -- A Donald Trump rally that attracted thousands to the University of Illinois at Chicago was abruptly canceled Friday night amid security fears, sparking fights between the candidate's fans and anti-Trump protesters.
The rally was called off about a half-hour after the scheduled 6 p.m. start time, after thousands of Trump fans and anti-Trump protesters packed into the free event, which required online registration. Thousands more gathered outside, surrounded by a police perimeter, and people became more vocal as the starting time approached.
Fighting broke out when the cancelation was announced, according to media reports from inside the pavilion.
“I have never seen anything like it. It’s amazing,” CNN’s Jim Acosta said. The network said approximately 8,500 people were at the rally.
Trump's events in recent days, including one earlier Friday in St. Louis, have featured numerous instances of violence. Trump has encouraged supporters to attack protesters, saying they should "hit back" more often.
The St. Louis rally featured intense confrontations between protesters and Trump supporters. It led to at least one injury and 32 arrests.
Trump said later on CNN he had "no regrets" about his tough talk, including a remark that protesters, in the old days, would be "carried out on stretchers."
"You can't even have a rally anymore in this country," Trump complained on MSNBC shortly after the Chicago cancelation. He added: “There’s a lot of anger in the country, and it’s very sad to see.”
In a subsequent appearance on Fox News, Trump told Greta Van Susteren it was "a good decision" to cancel the rally. "I am a unifier," he said, even though thousands had gathered at the event to protest him. more