President-elect Donald Trump said Friday that his supporters were “vicious” and “violent” during the presidential campaign, seemingly contradicting claims he made before the election that the “the safest place on Earth is at a Trump rally.”
Trump’s comments came during a stop on his “Thank You” tour in Orlando, Florida, on Friday evening. Midway through Trump’s speech, attendees began to chant “Lock her up,” a reference to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Trump’s supporters made the chant a fixture on the campaign trail before the election in response to Clinton’s email scandal and have continued to use it during the “Thank You” tour.
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“That’s so terrible. So I’ll tell you what I noticed ... the crowds are incredible,” Trump, who has since walked back on his promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton. “Four weeks ago, prior to the election, you people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall? We want the wall!’ ... ‘Prison! Prison! Lock her up!’ I mean, you were going crazy. I mean, you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right?
“Now, same crowds ... but now it’s much different. You’re laid back, you’re cool, you’re mellow. You’re basking in the glory of victory. And we’re already getting to work.”
During the campaign, allegations of violence at Trump rallies surfaced repeatedly, although Trump defended his supporters and accused Clinton of paying activists to “cause fights” during the third presidential debate.
In March 2016, one of Trump’s rallies in Chicago was canceled after supporters and protesters clashed outside the the arena. But even when the rallies did take place, Slate reported 20 incidents of violence throughout the campaign involving both his supporters and people protesting his candidacy.
However, Trump repeatedly claimed that his rallies were the “safest place on Earth.”
“You know why we're safe?” Trump said at a Syracuse, New York, rally. “Because the people in these rooms...the people love each other and they protect each other and that's the way the country has to be for everybody.”
At several rallies, protesters reported being punched, kicked, spat upon and verbally abused. Trump himself stopped campaign speeches to ask security to remove protesters and later suggested one should have been “roughed up” for interrupting. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of battery by a female reporter, though charges were later dropped.
Since his election, reports of hate crime and racially charged incidents have drawn intense scrutiny, with the Southern Poverty Law Center claiming more than a thousand incidents of bias and harassment since Election Day.
“But now you’re mellow and you’re cool and you’re not nearly as vicious and violent because we won,” Trump said Friday. “And so now you’re sorta laying back ... although it doesn’t sound like a totally laid back crowd, but that’s OK.”
On social media, reporters tweeted out that some supporters were calling for Clinton to be waterboarded and attacking the media.