By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker
Decades before thousands of protesters prompted Donald Trump to cancel a rally in Chicago on Friday, demonstrators forced segregationist George Wallace to cut his speech short at Cobo hall in Detroit.
It was October 1968, and Wallace was taunting hecklers, as he had done for most of his failed campaign for president.
“Wallace pummeled a group of demonstrators and tore their signs,” the Chicago Tribune wrote.
Before long, “wild, chair-swinging violence erupted,” and some protesters were beaten by police and Wallace supporters.
“Wallace supporters struck handcuffed hecklers as they were being led away by police,” the Chicago Tribune wrote. “One plainclothes policeman, using a pair of handcuffs as brass knuckles, cut the face of a heckler who shoved him.”
On Friday, thousands of protesters rallied inside and outside Trump’s planned speech at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Fearing violence would break out, Trump canceled the speech.
Hundreds of protesters inside the arena chanted, “We stopped Trump!”
Like Wallace, Trump has tapped into the anger, fear and anxieties of many Americans. He routinely taunts protesters and has advocated violence against them.
On Wednesday, a white Trump supporter sucker-punched a black protester in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A day earlier, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski “forcibly” grabbed a female reporter for the Breitbart news site when she tried to ask Trump a question at a press conference. On March 1, a group of Trump supporters surrounded and shoved a black woman in Louisville, Kentucky.
Trump often seems to enjoy the protests, often saying, “Isn’t this fun, folks?”
Wallace was known for doing the same thing.
“Wallace has welcomed hecklers, shouting back at them to elicit exuberant cheers from his supporters,” the Chicago Tribune reported in 1968 .
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.