Anti-Trump activists look to replicate Chicago success

Protesters against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump celebrate after it was announced that a rally for Trump was canceled due to security concerns on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (AP) — College students, civil rights activists and other opponents of Donald Trump’s Republican presidential candidacy are celebrating their success in shutting down his rally Friday night in Chicago.

The question now is whether activists elsewhere — enraged by Trump’s heated language on immigrants and minorities— will look to Chicago as a model when it comes to other Trump appearances, such as one scheduled Saturday night in Kansas City, Missouri.

Here’s a look at how activists quickly organized Friday’s protests and whether a sustained protest movement might be in the works:

CONDITIONS WERE RIPE

Trump ran into a vibrant community of student activists and civil- and immigrant-rights campaigners that has experience in organizing mass demonstrations and was energized by recent scandals over Chicago police shootings of young black men. The arena where the event took place is at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a diverse, big-city campus.

“We have a lot of groups that Trump and his campaigners attack, including Muslims, immigrants, undocumented people, Mexicans, blacks, the LGBT community,” said Juan Rojas, a 19-year-old neuroscience pre-med student and one of the protest organizers.

One Trump supporter even acknowledged that had Trump gone to the suburbs, it’s likely nothing would have happened.

But Chicago may not be a one-off: Activists in Kansas City, Missouri, say they’re also expecting to shut down the Trump event at a downtown theater Saturday.

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NEW TACTICS

Besides mobilizing a big crowd, the Chicago protesters used some new tactics. They encouraged students to sign up for lots of tickets in an attempt to limit the crowd of actual Trump supporters, making the crowd appear to be an equal mix of those eager to cheer on the real estate mogul and those overtly opposed to his candidacy.

Once inside, protesters also stuck together in groups to avoid being set upon individually by angry Trump supporters, as has happened at past rallies. Still, some scuffles and fistfights broke out. But entering in force allowed protesters to break out in celebratory cheering and dancing when a Trump representative took to the stage to announce the rally had been cancelled.

“He didn’t even really finish his sentence before cheers started being heard,” said 19-year-old nursing student Casandra Robledo, another protest organizer.

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WAS IT STAGED?

Trump asserted Saturday that the Chicago protest was a professionally staged “planned attack.”

But organizers like Robledo and Rojas said it was put together by student organizations on campus — via Facebook — with no affiliation to any political groups. About 100 campus leaders met a week before the rally to decide on a message and a strategy and printed flyers. Word spread quickly and protesters were able to pack both the auditorium and a parking lot outside.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

Some of the Chicago organizers say they don’t plan to take part in any broader movement to dog the candidate elsewhere. Their influence, however, will be felt in Kansas City, where activists say they plan to try to shut down a rally Saturday.

“We have people in line right now,” activist Andreas Herrera said around midday Saturday. Others will join them later inside and outside the theater, said the 27-year-old construction worker, who founded the area’s Progressive Youth Organization. They plan to coalesce in groups closer to the event start time, he said.

Trump made two appearances Saturday in Ohio that saw some small numbers of protests and disruption. A spokeswoman for Trump says a man tried to breach the security buffer at his event in Dayton, leading Secret Service agents to briefly rush the stage to surround him, but Trump finished his speech without apparent incident.

Herrera says he thinks Kansas City protesters “can shut Trump down before he even takes the stage.”

Kansas City police declined comment about any additional security plans.

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