- The Washington Times - Monday, March 14, 2016

TAMPA, Florida — Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has again begun warning those at his rallies not to get into fights with protesters, even issuing instructions on how to handle interruptions by telling supporters not to “touch or harm the protester.”

The protests have become a dominant story for Mr. Trump, who canceled an event in Chicago on Friday and has had to impose strict conditions on those entering his rallies in the days since.

In Tampa on Monday afternoon, before Mr. Trump was scheduled to take the stage, an announcer issued strict instructions saying that while the rally is private and the GOP presidential hopeful can kick people out, it’s up to police, not Trump supporters.

“Some people have taken advantage of Mr. Trump’s hospitality by choosing to disrupt his rallies by using them as an opportunity to promote their own political messages. While they certainly have the right to free speech, this is a private event paid for by Mr. Trump. We have provided a safe protest area outside the venue for all protesters,” the announcer said.

“If a protester starts demonstrating in the area around you, please do not touch or harm the protester. This is a peaceful rally. In order to notify law enforcement officers of the location of a protester, please hold a rally sign over your head and start chanting Trump, Trump, Trump. Ask the people around you to do likewise until the officer removes the protester,” the announcer said, concluding, “Thank you for helping us make America great again.”

Minutes later, as the rally began, a woman did protest, shouting “Trump sucks!”

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump extols his rallies as ‘lovefests’

The crowd near her began chanting Trump, alerting the candidate to the disturbance.

“That’s OK, don’t hurt ‘em,” Mr. Trump urged his fans as the woman was escorted out.

Democrats and Mr. Trump’s own GOP opponents have said he bears responsibility for the escalating tensions at his events, accusing him of playing to people’s fears. He’s also become a target for organized protests such as the one in Chicago, with liberal activists saying they intend to drown out his message.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Tampa rally, Mr. Trump’s supporters said they don’t blame him for the problems, and said responsibility lies squarely on the protesters.

“It’s the protesters,” said Bob Walker, 62, from St. Petersburg. “They come in there and they’re looking for a fight and they’re used to getting away with it, they’re used to getting coddled, and Trump doesn’t coddle: ‘Here it is, you come in there looking for a fight, you’re gonna get a fight.’ That’s what this country needs. Somebody with backbone.”

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