Secret Service puts onus on organizers for campaign protests

Donald Trump, Chicago, rally, police
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The head of the Secret Service on Tuesday said that campaigns and local security are responsible for dealing with protesters — not his officers.

Rallies for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFighting for affordable energy could remake presidential race Trump claims Democrats are making up polls Hanks: Trump's 'suspense' comment a 'gift' for 'SNL' MORE’s presidential campaign are frequently interrupted by protesters, and clashes between supporters and opponents of the Republican presidential front-runner have turned violent on multiple occasions.

Critics of Trump’s campaign have also accused security of singling out African-American attendees, following instances in which crowds of largely young black attendants have been ushered out or blocked from entering the events.

But according to Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, those decisions are all made by local officials.

“We do not interfere with people’s First Amendment rights,” Clancy said before a House Appropriations subcommittee. “People have the right to voice their opinions, and it's for the host committee to decide whether or not that’s disruptive to their event.”

“We are there to protect our protectee,” he added. “If there are protesters, if there are people that are disrupting the event, that is not our primary responsibility.”

“We sit down with the host committee or the event organizer, and we tell them: ‘If there is someone that you feel is disrupting the event or protesting, it is incumbent upon you to make that decision and then to work with the private security that you may have or your university security or the local law enforcement to remove the protester if you think that’s warranted.’”

Trump’s political events have been marked by an unusually hostile atmosphere, and some have wondered whether the candidate himself ought to be held responsible for inciting violence. 

On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanDems brace for immigration battle RNC chairman: Ryan one of 'brightest stars' in Republican Party Gingrich: 'Of course' we can afford to have president with split personality MORE (R-Wis.) put at least some of the onus on his party’s presidential front-runner.

“All candidates have an obligation to try and provide an atmosphere of harmony, to reduce violence, to not incite violence, and to make sure we are appealing to people on their best ideals,” he told reporters, while maintaining that he would support Trump as the Republic nominee. 

The Trump campaign's decision to suspend a planned rally in Chicago this last weekend following massive protests evoked to many the developments of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, during which a heated protest evolved into a riot.

“Those of us that can remember back to 1968 remember what happened in Chicago, and nobody in either party wants to have a convention that ends up like Chicago back in ’68,” Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) told Clancy on Tuesday.

Carter mentioned both Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersJuan Williams: When WikiLeaks leaked my cell number Trump: Podesta a 'nasty guy' Sanders’ brother loses British parliamentary election MORE, both of whom he said have “brought a lot of new voters into the mix.”

Clancy attempted to assure the committee that work had already begun to prepare for the two parties’ nominating conventions this summer.

“There’s 24 different subcommittees working on each individual component to make sure these conventions are safe and that they’re a positive event for all that want to attend,” he said.