Multiple videos show a protester at a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina being sucker-punched by a Trump supporter.
The videos, which appeared on social media early Thursday and are shot from different perspectives, show an African American with long hair wearing a white T-shirt leaving the Trump rally as the audience boos. He is being led out of the rally by men in uniforms that read “Sheriff’s Office.” The man extends a middle finger to the audience on his way out.
Then, out of nowhere, the man is punched by a pony-tailed man, who appears to be white, in a cowboy hat, black vest and pink shirt as the crowd begins to cheer. The protester stumbles away, and then is detained by a number of the men in uniforms, who handcuff him while he is on the ground.
“Chill, chill!” an onlooker says. “You don’t gotta grab him like that!”
Rakeem Jones, the man who was hit, said the punch came out of nowhere.
“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.
“She shouted, but at the same time, they were shouting too,” Jones, a 26-year-old inventory associate, said. “Everyone was shouting, too. … No one in our group attempted to get physical.”
Jones blamed the Cumberland County officers escorting him from the rally for failing to protect him — then detaining him instead of the man who he claims attacked him.
“It’s happening at all these rallies now and they’re letting it ride,” Jones said. “The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging.” He added: “My eye still hurts. It’s just shocking. 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.”
Ronnie C. Rouse, a man who shot one of the videos, was with Jones at the rally.
“We’re definitely anti-Trump,” Rouse told The Post.
Rouse said as soon as Trump’s speech began, someone in the crowd singled out him and his friends, screaming, “You need to get the f— out of there!” Rouse said that his group had not said anything and that the comment was unprovoked. But he said they were almost immediately surrounded by eight Cumberland County sheriff officers, who escorted them out. On the way up the stairs, the attack came.
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.”
Fayetteville is in Cumberland County, but an official from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, reached by The Post early Wednesday, said officers from that jurisdiction were not the ones who detained the man. The Fayetteville Police Department also told The Post they did not detain anyone at the rally, held at the city’s Crown Coliseum. Jones said he and his friends were not arrested.
Trump rallies are getting a reputation for violence by Trump supporters against disruptive protesters. Police in Fayetteville had to form a line separating pro- and anti-Trump groups outside the coliseum.
According to CBS New York, police are investigating at least two alleged assaults at a recent Kentucky rally. One involved a young African American woman who was repeatedly shoved and called “scum.”
Trump himself has not been quick to criticize the violence. After a fight erupted between protesters and police last year in Birmingham, Trump said: “‘Maybe he should have been roughed up.” Of a protester in Nevada last month, Trump said: “I’d like to punch him in the face.” In Kentucky, he said: “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do I’ll defend you in court. … Are Trump rallies the most fun? We’re having a good time.”
According to CBS New York, he referred to an incident at a New Hampshire rally where a protester started “swinging and punching.” Trump said some people in the audience “took him out.”
“It was really amazing to watch,” he said.
At the Fayetteville rally, Trump called protesters “professional troublemakers,” as ABC reported. As video posted by the Fayetteville News-Observer shows, his speech was repeatedly interrupted as protesters were escorted out and the crowd chanted, “USA.” He criticized one protester for wearing a “very dirty undershirt.”
Nor were the protesters enamored of Trump.
“He spreads hate,” protester Marianna Kuehn told WRAL.
Copyright: Washington Post
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