A black protester being escorted out of a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina by police on Wednesday was punched in the face by a white Trump supporter – yet no arrests were made and the only person restrained and ejected was the man who was punched.
In multiple videos of the incident, Rakeem Jones, 26, is seen walking up the steps of the Fayetteville Crown Coliseum on his way out of the arena. At least two Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department officers can be seen walking behind Jones as an unidentified Trump supporter with a pony tail and wearing a dark vest and cowboy hat moves to the end of one of the aisles and, with his right hand, socks Jones in the face.
Jones is briefly obscured by a crowd of people as he reaches the top of the stairs, but, the next moment, he’s seen falling to the ground with a police officer on top of him. Three cops then restrain Jones for several seconds, flip him on to his stomach and then eventually lift him up and finish taking him out of the Coliseum.
“The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging,” Jones told The Washington Post. “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.”
But CCSO public information officer Sgt. Sean Swain disputed Jones’ version of events.
“I couldn’t see if officers took him to the ground, or if he fell to the ground. We haven’t talked to the officers at the top of the steps,” Swain, who was at the rally, told FoxNews.com on Thursday. “As I looked up, people would miss a step and they’d fall. Until we investigate it, we can’t say our officers took him down to the ground. Now, we did pick him off the ground and escort him out.”
“[The video] only shows one perspective,” he added.
A video posted by Ronnie C Rouse (@theronniec910) on Mar 9, 2016 at 8:03pm PST
Swain said police have launched an internal investigation into the incident and are also investigating the assault on Jones. Officials plan to interview Jones later on Thursday and were working to identify the man in the pony tail and cowboy hat, Swain said.
Asked why the man wasn’t arrested on the spot, Swain said officers didn’t see the encounter.
“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.”
Swain said no one was arrested at the rally. However, he said Secret Service officials told him there were more protesters in Fayetteville than at any other Trump rally so far.
“As people watch an eight second video and form their conclusions about what goes on, our mission that night – we have 14,000 people at the crown – was to keep everybody safe,” Swain said. “Our instruction was to separate people and get them out the door as quickly as possible before it escalates.”
Ronnie Rouse, who was with Jones, told The Post that officers asked them to leave the rally almost as soon as Trump took the stage. Jones said someone in his group shouted something, prompting the ejection.
Now, Jones told The Post, the aftermath of the incident is adding insult to injury – in this case a swollen right cheek.
“Boom, he caught me,” Jones said. “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.”
Violent encounters have become a normal part of Trump events as the businessman’s campaign for the Republican nomination has progressed.
During a March 4 rally in Warren, Mich., Trump called for a protester to be ejected, according to the Associated Press.
“Try not to hurt him,” Trump said. “If you do, I’ll defend you in court.”
Trump later recalled a fight during a New Hampshire rally, saying: “It was really amazing to watch.”
During a November event, a Black Lives Matter activist was pushed and shoved as he was removed.
“Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump later said on Fox News.
At a February event in Las Vegas Trump said on stage that he’d “like to punch” a protester “in the face, I tell ya.”
Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields said Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, “grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down” as she tried to ask a question on Tuesday.