News Analysis: Experts warn U.S. political violence could rise to 1960s levels amid 2016 presidential race

WASHINGTON, April 29 (Xinhua) — This year could see the worst political violence since the Vietnam War era, as U.S. voters’ anger over the weak economy and corrupt politics boils over and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump continues to elicit outrage from opponents, experts said.

In what experts say is preview of more such incidents, Trump supporters were attacked by anti-Trump protesters while leaving a rally in California Thursday night.

Many protesters were upset about Trump’s stance on immigration, as the brash billionaire said he aims to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants, who number in the millions in the U.S.

The incident comes on the heels of a recent Trump rally, in which a Trump supporter sucker-punched an anti-Trump demonstrator. Critics charge Trump with egging on the violence, as the New York business tycoon initially said he would pay that assailant’s legal bills.

On Friday, a large crowd of angry anti-Trump protesters confronted police outside a hotel in Burlingame, California, ahead of a campaign rally where Trump planned to speak.

“This will be an election like 1968 when the country faced a lot of turbulence and street protests were very common,” Brookings Institution’s senior fellow Darrell West told Xinhua. “We haven’t seen this kind of violence in any recent American election. This year is different because there is a lot of anger that is boiling over about the economy, immigration, and the role of women in society.”

Trump is playing to that anger and this has created a situation when people on various sides of the issues are upset and coming into conflict with one another, he said.

With his controversial, sometimes inciting, statements on sensitive issues such as race, gender and immigration, Trump is set to further divide a nation where a majority of population are already disappointed at the direction the country is going.

When the Election Day in November comes, there could be more protests and more violence as each side confronts the other. “This is not going to be a feel-good election,” West said.

Indeed, experts said there are likely to be major disruptions at Trump rallies going forward, as many groups are upset with his stance on immigration and his rude comments about women.

Such violence, if it rises significantly, could be a risk for Democrats, experts contended.

“The risk for Democrats is that the country appears to be in chaos and voters start to yearn for a tough leader who can restore law and order,” West said.

The pictures of protesters attacking Trump supporters and swarming a police car are not good for Democrats, West said of U.S. media coverage of Thursday’s anti-Trump violence, in which protesters also attacked a police car.

“They need to focus on the substance of his positions and explain why his views are bad for America. Democratic supporters can win the substantive debates, but weaken their position when the protests turn violent,” he said.

Indeed, there is a sense among many U.S. conservatives that law and order on U.S. city streets is breaking down, amid a rising tide of anti-police protests and recent murders of police offers.

Some have said that police officers in U.S. cities are now reluctant to do their jobs, for fear that they will be prosecuted if they are forced to discharge their firearm.

Meanwhile, immigration will be a major issue in the lead up to November elections, when Americans will cast their ballots to elect the new president.

Immigration will be a big part of the discussion because it is an issue people care about and the two likely candidates, Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, have diametrically opposed views, West said.

Rising anger of American voters at the politicians in Washington has led to the surge in popularity of the outsiders in this year’s U.S. presidential race, including Trump and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic presidential candidate who mounted a surprisingly challenge to Clinton in the nomination race.

Earlier the month, hundreds of protesters were arrested in front of the Capitol Hill for protesting against corrupt politicians and the influence of money in politics in the U.S. elections.