A man has been charged with assaulting a protester at Donald Trump’s Fayetteville, North Carolina, rally Wednesday night.
John McGraw, 78, of Linden was arrested Thursday morning after assaulting Rakeem Jones, who had been protesting at the event. Jones was being escorted out by law enforcement when videos show McGraw punching him.
Jones told MSNBC that his right eye is “swollen and bruised” as a result of the punch.
“I was there, but it didn’t seem real” until he saw videos of the incident Wednesday morning, he added.
An internal investigation of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office is also underway, according to a press release, but further public comment cannot be made under NC law. McGraw is set to appear before court on April 6, 2016.
The show “Inside Edition” spoke to McGraw after he punched Jones.
“Yes, he deserved it,” McGraw said in an interview. “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.”
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, told NBC News “we are not involved,” in the incident.
Protests have become part of the bedrock at Trump rallies, and the candidate himself has at times fostered a toxic environment around them at his events.
His reactions range from yelling “get them out” to saying he loves protesters because it forces the press to show the crowd. At times, he has expressed this entire range of emotions in just a matter of minutes if there are multiple protests.
But some of his reactions have been less innocuous. At a Las Vegas rally just before the Nevada caucus, Trump responded to a protester’s interruption by saying he wanted to punch the man in the face.
At another rally in Iowa, he promised to pay the legal fees of supporters who “knock the crap out” of protesters who may appear at the rally. The GOP frontrunner also often speaks about the “old days” when he says law enforcement was allowed to be tougher with interrupters.
The frequency of protests and sheer number of protesters has seen an uptick in recent months. In New Orleans on the eve of the Louisiana primary, a group of 20-25 protesters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement were aggressively escorted out of the event, along with multiple other protesters who spoke out at various points in the rally.
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton responded to the incident Thursday, calling it “repugnant.”