Donald Trump may be horrible, awful, and no good, but that doesn’t give anybody a free pass to assault his supporters.

As the reality show star turned Republican presidential nominee wrapped up his event in San Jose yesterday, an angry crowd of demonstrators attacked some of the attendees. Several punches were thrown, a few were bloodied, and at least one man had his shirt torn off.

Protesters jumped on cars, pelted Trump supporters with eggs and water balloons, snatched signs and stole “Make America Great” hats off supporters’ heads before burning the hats and snapping selfies with the charred remains.

Is there a more universally-recognized trope of bullying, childish stupidity than playing ‘keep away’ with someone’s hat?

At times, protesters began to fight among themselves. In one instance, two female protesters pleaded for nonviolence while trying to protect a Trump supporter from an angry crowd. Despite their efforts, someone snatched the Trump supporter’s hat.

Violence and juvenile taunting thus completely undid all sincere efforts to make any kind of legitimate political criticism of Trump or his campaign. Instead of highlighting Trump’s bigotry, images of this woman being hit in the face with eggs will tend to elicit sympathy.

And sorry sports fans, but no, we can’t blame this incident on a conspiracy of provocateurs. Rather, the anti-Trump demonstration was quite obviously disorganized, producing the sort of chaos that one always finds in a leaderless protest with high levels of passion and insufficient training in nonviolence. People with the best of intentions can turn into a dangerous mob under such circumstances. We’ve seen the phenomenon with Trump’s fans, and now we’re seeing what it looks like from the other side.

Enough excuses. I defy anyone to watch this and tell me how it serves anyone but Trump:

If history is any guide, these scenes will not work out well for American democracy. As with fascists before him, Trump actually benefits from any violence and disorder outside his rallies. Such events allow him to play the victim, and more importantly, to feed his supporters’ sense of victimization.

‘Who did what to whom’ doesn’t even matter. Mussolini, the Italian dictator that inspired Adolph Hitler, shamelessly directed violence against the very same enemies that he condemned for attacking his fascist supporters, then used the anarchy in the streets to justify his bid for absolute power by claiming he was the only man who could restore order.

Don’t say that it can’t happen here, because it clearly is. Trump has a lot in common with Mussolini, especially at his rallies:

For Trump’s supporters, the pushing and shoving, and even the outright violence, against protesters, and the menacingly carnivalesque atmosphere are, to an extent, an end in itself. Just observe how groups at Trump rallies spontaneously come together to roughen up a protester.  The sheer emotional intensity of their facial expressions shows us precisely why they support Trump and why no policy proposal from any of his competitors can ever come close to diminishing Trump in his supporters’ eyes.  Violence is electrifying and community building as much as it is devastating for those on the receiving end.

People who are serious about opposing Donald Trump — and resisting the spirit of fascism that he represents — should stop mirroring the worst behavior of his partisans. If ‘progressives’ can’t take a cue from Martin Luther King, Jr. and behave themselves, they should just stay home.

Otherwise, they only serve his interests by showing up.

ADDING: Journalist David Neiwert, who predicted the rise of Trump, has more to say about the fascist uses of violence.