Donald Trump on Sunday disagreed with criticism that he and his supporters have allowed campaign rallies to be overrun by violence and injury.
“Nobody’s ever been hurt,” the GOP front-runner told “Fox News Sunday.” “Some of these protesters are bad dudes. They swing and they punch.”
Trump’s comments follow a weekend of campaign events marred by protests and violence, which started with the cancellation of a rally Friday night in Chicago and included arrests, clashes between supporters and protesters and a would-be stage crasher.
Trump also argued that his events consistently draw tens of thousands of people — including 35,000 recently in Alabama — so the protests and problems are only a small part of his overall campaign.
“When you think about it, who do you know has been hurt?” he asked.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Trump is guilty of “political arson,” adding that “the ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous,” The New York Times reported.
Trump said he doesn’t condone violence, including the case of the white male supporter who is accused of striking a black protester in the face during a recent rally in Fayetteville, N.C.
The billionaire businessman and first-time candidate also attempted to explain why his rallies have become a flashpoint in American politics by saying, “People in this country are angry” about years of stagnant wages, few jobs and the lack of care for U.S. military veterans.
He also disagreed with GOP primary rival Ohio Gov. John Kasich that his campaign rhetoric, including the argument that essentially all Muslims dislike America and his talk about “punching” campaign protesters, has incited the violence.
Kasich said Saturday that Trump is “creating a toxic environment.”
“I hope he’ll knock this off and stop trying to divide us,” Kasich also said.
Trump is scheduled Sunday to make stops in Illinois, Ohio and Florida ahead of ‘Mega Tuesday’ voting.
The billionaire businessman is expected to be met with more protests, and local officials said they will deploy extra police.
Following Friday night’s unrest in Chicago before one his rallies, Trump was met with protests and countless interruptions Saturday in Ohio and Missouri.
The Chicago Police Department said in a news release sent Saturday night that three men from Chicago and a 45-year-old woman from Michigan were arrested and charged for participating in a disturbance at the protest Friday night.
At a rally in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a man tried to breach the security buffer at the event and he was removed “rapidly and professionally,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said. Secret Service agents rushed the stage to protect Trump.
Thomas Dimassimo was identified as the barrier jumper. He was charged with inducing panic and disorderly conduct, Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said.
Such problems continued in Kansas City, Mo., where Trump was interrupted numerous times. At least seven people stalled the rally in the first few minutes.
“I think they’re Bernie [Sanders] supporters,” Trump said of the protesters, pointing to at least one protester who appeared to be holding a sign in support of the Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator.
Trump canceled his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday after violence broke out in the arena where he was scheduled to speak.
He spoke later to Fox News, saying he canceled the event because he didn’t want to see “people get hurt.”
He said he made the decision to cancel after meeting with law enforcement authorities. Trump also said his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Hours earlier, Trump supporters and opponents stood calmly in a line together waiting to get inside. Police horses and barricades kept the bulk of the demonstrators across the street.
Trump opponents were protesting what they called his divisive comments, particularly about Muslims and Mexicans. Dozens of UIC faculty and staff had petitioned university administrators to cancel the rally, citing concerns it would create a “hostile and physically dangerous environment.”
At one point, nearly 20 officers who had been manning barricades suddenly bolted for an intersection across a street bridge over a freeway — where protesters shouted at and jostled with police already there. An officer was seen walking from that intersection with blood on his head.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.