A 78-year-old man was charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct, and communicating threats after he punched a young protester who was being escorted out by the police at a Trump rally on March 8, 2016.
That is a lot of information at once. Let’s break that down.
Start with the Basics
First, let’s talk about the person who committed the simple assault. The aggressor is a 78-year-old white male named John McGraw, who was wearing a cowboy hat and vest at the rally. He appears to be a die-hard Trump supporter. This man watched the protestors being escorted up the stairs and out of the arena by the police. As one of the protesters passed him, McGraw punched the protester in the face without any warning or visible provocation.
After the rally, “Inside Edition,” a syndicate of CBS, interviewed McGraw. McGraw bragged to the news station about the simple assault, saying: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” (Seriously. He said that. And terrifyingly, he probably actually meant it.)
The day after the rally, McGraw was charged with: (1) simple assault; (2) disorderly conduct; and (3) communicating threats.
Second, let’s talk about the victim of the simple assault. The man that was assaulted was Rakeem Jones, a 26-year-old black man. He was at the rally to protest Trump’s campaign and message. As he was being escorted out, the attendees were shouting racial slurs at him and the other protestors. NBC News reported that Jones told them that the assault came out of nowhere, and left his right eye swollen and bruised. After he was sucker-punched, the police who were escorted him out surrounded Jones – not McGraw— and continued to lead Jones out of the arena.
Police Response or Lack Thereof
Third, since we are on the subject, let’s talk about the police. The assault occurred in front of at least five sheriff deputies. Even though they were in the immediate vicinity during the attack, none of them took any action against McGraw. McGraw was permitted to enjoy the rest of the rally even after committing a blatant crime in front of the police.
The New York Times reported that five of the North Carolina deputies involved have been disciplined for their failure to take action after McGraw assaulted the protester—which solidifies the fact that the officers had a duty to step in and failed to do so. Three of the officers were suspended for five days without pay and demoted. Two of the officers were suspended for three days without pay. The North Carolina police department stated that their discipline was due to their “unsatisfactory performance and fail[ure] to discharge the duties and policies of the office of the sheriff.”
However, the fact that the police did fail to take action – and had to be disciplined – highlights the problem that is facing America today.
And that leads us to our final point of discussion: Donald Trump. This assault is but one of many that has been occurring at Trump political rallies. These tensions between protestors of Trump and supporters of Trump has become a permanent fixture during rallies – and has been mirrored by clashes between Trump’s security and journalists covering the rallies. Violence has become the new normal at these rallies to the extent that has never occurred in political campaigns prior to Trump.
A Non-Presidential Response
It is easy to track why this is occurring: Trump’s tone and rhetoric encourages aggression towards protestors (and anyone else that doesn’t see things his way). For example, during a rally on February 1, 2016, Trump stated:
“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience. So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell – I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. I promise.”
At another rally on February 23, 2016, Trump watched as a protestor was escorted out, and told the crowd:
“I’d like to punch him in the face…In the old days [protestors would be] carried out in stretchers…We’re not allowed to push back anymore.”
This is a presidential candidate that is saying these things. Someone who has too much of a chance to actually run America, to be the person that is supposed to uphold our right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of association – he is speaking out against those rights.
An Unexpected Response to Trump
One of the responses to Trump’s rhetoric has been:
“When we have a candidate who threatens people, this is not American. This is not equal justice. This is not who we are. If we give in to our anger, if we start to go down that path and we start to listen to bullies, we lose what makes us great.”
That response was said by Glen Beck. Glen Beck – the man who has called President Obama a racist, who has threatened to kill Michael Moore, and who compared Al Gore to Adolf Hitler because of Gore’s attempts to stop global warming. THAT man has called Trump a “bully.”
Perhaps this assault by a Trump supporter is only the beginning. Perhaps we need to gear on for a full fight against this hateful, aggressive, “bully.” I mean, if he can get us to start agreeing with Glen Beck – who knows what he is capable of doing.
I fear that it may be time to start becoming very afraid.