A petition to The White House urging the Obama administration to arrest and prosecute Donald Trump for inciting violent acts among his supporters has received over 88,000 signatures.
The petition was started on March 13, days after a scheduled Trump rally in Chicago was cancelled because of violent clashes between Trump supporters and protesters. Since then, other Trump campaign events have been marred by violence, including at Saturday's rally in Tuscon, Arizona, where a protester was attacked and beaten in the crowd.
The White House responds to petitions that receive 100,000 signatures within 30 days. The Trump petition seems likely to require a response from the Obama administration — it needs less than 12,000 signatures to reach the 100,000 threshhold by April 12.
Trump has denied that he condones violence at his rallies, but critics point to his words as evidence that he encourages such behavior. Example of Trump's controversial statements at rallies include: "I’d like to punch him in the face,” “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” and “If you see somebody with a tomato, knock the crap out of them.”
The petition cites the landmark Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio, which established that speech is not protected under the First Amendment if it is "directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action."
"Clearly, he is doing exactly that," says the petition, but experts are divided over whether Trump's speech crosses the standard established in Brandenburg. Slate reports that University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps believes that Trump's speech could be considered "unprotected incitement." But Hermann Waltz, an attorney and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice told the Washington Post that, "Short of Donald Trump saying something like, 'Get that guy and punch him in the face,' or something like that, I don't see that he would have any real liability."
Earlier in March, officials in North Carolina considered charging Trump with inciting a riot under state law after a supporter named John McGraw attacked a protester and was charged with assault, but later declined to press charges. Trump said he would look into paying McGraw's legal fees related to the assault. “See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen, because they used to treat them very rough,” Trump said of the protesters at the Fayetteville, N.C. rally on March 9.