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Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s Thursday night rally in San Jose, California, quickly descended into chaos as protesters exchanged blows with Trump supporters and police. The melee was the latest instance of escalating violence that has dogged the real estate mogul’s campaign since mid-March, and it shows no sign of abating. Political director Lisa Desjardins reports.
The presidential candidates are in California heading into the last weekend of campaigning before Tuesday's primary.
And last night, campaign trail violence followed.
Lisa Desjardins has the story.
Police in riot gear, campaign hats on fire, and bloodied faces, that was the scene last night outside a Donald Trump rally in San Jose, California.
And, increasingly, it's the picture of campaign 2016. Where one side sees organized, violent protesters, the other says it all started with the candidate himself.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Republican Presidential Candidate: So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.
But, today, a different tone. Trump insisted he has pushed for calm.
When we have a protester inside, which even isn't very often, I say, be very gentle, please don't hurt him, take care of him, if he wants to shout, if he punches you in the face, smile.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton reacted to last night's violence in a CNN interview today.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), Democratic Presidential Candidate: And Trump has lowered the bar. And now is it a surprise that people who don't like him are stepping over that low bar? I don't think it is. He needs to condemn all violence by everyone. I already have. I will continue to do so.
Neil Levesque of Saint Anselm College says the incivility has risen on both sides and so has the volume.
NEIL LEVESQUE, Saint Anselm College:
Well, Trump certainly has escalated the amount of vitriol from the podium itself, yelling at reporters, personally attacking them, personally attacking judges.
This is sort of unprecedented. And I'm sure that it has raised the level of disruption, of amount of anger that's out there. And I believe it has contributed to the bad situation that's taken place outside of some of these rallies.
It has happened at many Trump events since last year. These are just a few. But things escalated in March, with a canceled rally in Chicago, dozens of arrests in Saint Louis and a protester getting punched in Tucson.
Recently, violence has turned to more physical damage, with protesters smashing police cars near L.A., items thrown at police horses in Albuquerque, and then punches thrown on both sides last night.
Larry O'Connor is a talk host and conservative in Washington. He says the protesters are blocking democracy.
LARRY O’CONNOR, HotAir:
What we saw last night in San Jose was a group of American citizens, peacefully assembling for a political rally, and they were violently attacked. That's anti-free speech. It's anti-American.
Conservatives charge that organizations on the left like MoveOn.org are behind the protests and violence. MoveOn has said it did promote and print signs for the Chicago protest in March, but it insists it is not violent and there's no evidence connecting it to violence.
But they blame Trump for the escalation.
Karine Jean-Pierre is with MoveOn.org.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org Political Action:
He is responsible. He is standing on stage, behind a podium, and he's applying for the job of the United States. And what he's doing is saying it's OK to punch a peaceful protester. And this is not OK. It is a problem. And this is hatred and bigotry and racism that he's putting out there.
But Trump supporters insist they are the victims of hatred from protesters. Some see it all as something more than politics, but a kind of cultural anger spilling over at campaign events.
The tragedy here is that Americans need to be able to talk to each other. They need to be able to listen to each other, and when you have civic events that really cannot take place anymore, it's really harmful to our republic.
Today's Trump rally at an airport in Redding, California, was notably calmer.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Lisa Desjardins.
We will talk more about security issues on the campaign, as well as the week in politics, with Shields and Brooks later in the program.
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