Violent incidents at rallies for GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump have become so commonplace that Slate is now keeping a running tally of violent altercations between supporters, protesters, campaign security, police, members of the media and campaign staffers.
Last week in Louisville, KY several Trump supporters including known-white supremacist Matthew Heimbach attacked a black man while other black audience members reported being spat upon. One day before that, a photographer from Time Magazine was slammed to the ground by a Secret Service agent.
— Capital Journal (@WSJPolitics) February 29, 2016
The latest violent encounter at a Trump speaking-event was captured in several videos from varying places in the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina. These videos from Wednesday are now becoming viral. And if the list by Slate is accurate, this is the 10th such act of violence to date.
The video footage shows a young black protester being escorted by police out of the rally, grasping him as they make their way up the stairs. Then an older white audience member in a cowboy hat can be clearly seen punching the protester in the face.
The protestor’s police escorts continue to lead him to the back of the coliseum where they tackle and handcuff him. The protestor was identified as Rakeem Jones, 26, of Fayetteville.
Jones claims he was sent home without being charged, but no other arrests were made for the confrontation which he described as coming out of nowhere. The video evidence does not suggest the police officers identified or questioned the ponytailed white man in the cowboy hat who appeared to clearly be committing an assault.
“Boom, he caught me,” Jones told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out. Now I’m waking up this morning looking at the news and seeing me getting hit again.”
Jones said he and four friends — a “diverse” group that included a white woman, a Muslim, and a gay man, had gone to the rally as a “social experiment.” He said the woman with them started shouting once Trump’s speech began.
According to Ronnie C. Rouse, a friend who was with Jones and who also shot one of the videos, they were singled out by someone in the crowd when Trump began speaking. He says that it had not been provoked when someone yelled, “You need to get the fuck out of there!” Then eight Cumberland County sheriff officers “almost immediately surrounded” their group and escorted them out.
The attacker came from the end of his row of seats and unexpectedly swung at Jones, with police doing nothing to stop him or apprehend him. Incredibly, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Sean Swain told Fox News that the officers didn’t arrest the white man who punched Jones because they didn’t see it happen.
“Both the officers are looking down [in the video] when the camera phone turns away when the guy punches,” Swain said. “If we had stayed and tried to reason things out right there it would have gotten very bad.”
According to Swain, the video is misleading because while it looks like officers tackle Jones to the ground, the man could perhaps have tripped and fell. Swain says the CCSO will launch an internal investigation and attempt to identify Jones’ attacker as well.
Rouse, a 32-year-old musician, said he didn’t see the punch but saw the aftermath — his friend “slammed” by officers to the ground and handcuffed. Noting that someone in the crowd shouted, “Go home n—–s,” he said he was taken aback.
“We’ve been watching all this stuff happen to everyone else,” Rouse said. “This isn’t Biloxi. This isn’t Montgomery. This is Fayetteville. … it’s a well-cultured area.” Noting Fayetteville’s proximity to Fort Bragg, he added: “I wanted to take my 11-year-old child, to give him a touch of what’s happening political-wise. I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve never been more embarrassed to be from here in my life. It’s just appalling.”
“It’s happening at all these rallies now and they’re letting it ride,” Jones told The Washington Post. “The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging.”
“My eye still hurts. It’s just shocking,” he said. “The shock of it all is starting to set in. It’s like this dude really hit me and they let him get away with it. I was basically in police custody and got hit.”
From early reports in The Post, neither the Cumberland County sheriff officials nor the Fayetteville police would claim the officers in the video, who have the words “Sheriff’s Office” printed on the backs of their shirts. Both departments said that they did not detain anyone at the event.
— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) March 10, 2016
Outside of the coliseum, Fayetteville police had to form a line separating supporters from protesters due to high tensions and the risk of violence. According to Swain, this rally drew more protesters than any other Trump event so far in the campaign.
The dates on Slate’s list of violent encounters suggest that violence is becoming more frequent and more intense at Trump’s rallies. The vitriolic businessman himself has not condemned violence in its aftermath, but rather is on record either directly calling for it or stoking the flames at his events.
The Associated Press reported Trump saying “Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court,” after calling for a protester to be removed from a rally in Michigan March 4. Then he recalled the violence of a New Hampshire rally where supporters mobbed and took down a protestor. “It was really amazing to watch,” Trump told his supporters.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump said on Fox News after a Black Lives Matter activist was attacked while being removed from a November event.
Trump was reported telling his audience that he’d “like to punch” a protester “in the face, I tell ya.” That was at an event in Las Vegas in December, where he also suggested he’d like to see the man carried out on a stretcher.