Donald Trump has blamed organized "thugs" for forcing him to cancel a rally in Chicago over security concerns. Fights and protests have broken out at a number of the Republican presidential front-runner's rallies.
At a campaign rally held in a hangar outside Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, Trump said events that forced his campaign to cancel a rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago the previous evening were "a disgrace, if you want to know the truth."
The billionaire real-estate mogul told the crowd that his supporters were "nice" and "great" people, but that a group of thugs threatened to create a situation in which people could have gotten hurt.
"We made a decision. And I hated to do this, because frankly it wouldn't have been easier to do. But I didn't want to see anybody get hurt. You would have had a problem like they haven't seen in a long time. Because we have people that are so amazing."
Trump canceled Friday's rally in Chicago after protesters packed the arena and squabbles broke out between protestors and supporters. Police arrested five people.
The polarizing Republican presidential front-runner's rallies have increasingly become the target of protests, and in a number of cases altercations have broken out between supporters and protesters.
Trump has denied inciting any violence at his rallies, although he encouraged supporters at one rally last month to "knock the crap out of them" protestors and at another rally said he would like to punch one heckler in the face.
In a sign protests are likely to mount, Secret Service agents briefly jumped up on the stage to protect the Republican frontrunner after someone attempted to breach a security barrier.
Democrats attack Trump
Hillary Clinton, who so far is ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders in securing Democratic delegates, said Saturday Trump's controversial statements were fueling "violence and aggression."
President Barack Obama, chiming in on Trump's comments against Muslims and immigrants, said at a Democratic fundraiser on Saturday presidential candidates should be uniting people rather than stoking divisions.
"What the folks who are running for office should be focused on is how we can make it (the United States) even better -- not insults and schoolyard taunts and manufacturing facts, not divisiveness along the lines of race and faith, certainly not violence against other Americans," the president said.
GOP hopefuls suggest they may not back Trump
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich suggested Saturday they may not back Trump if he gains the party's nomination.
Trump is creating a "toxic environment" that "makes it very, extremely difficult" to support him, Kasich said.
Rubio echoed reservations about supporting Trump if he becomes the Republican presidential candidate, saying he was "dividing both the party and the country so bitterly."
Trump's success has startled a fractured Republican party, which never expected the controversial figure to gain so much traction among an electorate fed up with the party establishment.
Tuesday is a make-or-break day for Trump's Republican challengers, with all or nothing primaries in five states including Illinois, Florida and Ohio.
Rubio, a senator from Florida, and Kasich, the governor of Ohio, must win contests in their home states to stay in the race.
Trump victories in those states would all but seal his path towards the party's nomination.
Chase Winter (AP, Reuters)