At campaign events across the nation, Donald Trump’s candidacy has inspired heated arguments, some of which have ended in physical confrontation. But though at least one Trump sign in Massachusetts has apparently been set ablaze, reports of violence sparked merely by the presence of Trump paraphernalia are hard to find.
Until now. On March 8 — the day Trump won Georgia’s Republican primary — a Trump booster in Dalton, Ga., was sitting outside his home when “three Hispanic males” allegedly began messing with his Trump sign.
“Well, they was walking down the street, we was sitting outside,” David Grant told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “Three Hispanic males grabbed it up, wadded it up, threw it down the road.”
Grant, 43, did not hesitate to confront the man he considered the main offender.
“I went up to him,” Grant said. “I said, ‘Put the sign up, fix it back.’ He just refused, throwing out profanities, walking backwards. I seen he was getting away. I told him he wasn’t going nowhere until he fixed the sign.”
The confrontation grew heated, Grant said.
“He pulls his gun out of his waistband and started it pointing at me,” Grant said. “I said, ‘If you got the balls to pull your gun, shoot it!'” He also said the man with the gun threatened him, saying: “I’m fixing to pop a cap in your ass.”
But Grant found he had backup when his neighbor came outside.
“My neighbor — he’s Hispanic too — said, ‘Hang on, I got you,’ and gets his gun,” Grant said. The neighbor — whom Grant did not wish to name — told the men: “Ain’t nobody shooting him. You don’t go on another man’s property and mess with nothing, just because of the Trump sign.”
Grant said the men retreated.
“They all ran off together,” Grant said. “They were throwing gang signs, saying, ‘You’re all dead.'” He told WRCB: “[They were] saying Spanish words. I don’t know what they were saying.”
Grant phoned police and, when his cousin showed up, pursued the men so they did not get away. The result: Two men — Hector Ayala, 20, and Mauricio Rodriguez, 18 — and a 17-year-old male were arrested and charged, as WTVC reported.
Ayala was charged with disorderly conduct; Rodriguez was charged with making terroristic threats, criminal trespass and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana; and the juvenile was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a handgun under the age of 18 and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. (The Post does not name juveniles charged with crimes unless they are charged as adults; at press time, a spokesman for the Dalton police was unsure whether the juvenile had been charged as an adult.) All three suspects were charged with violation of Georgia’s Criminal Street Gang Act.
Grant said the confrontation spoke directly to the issues Trump, his favored candidate, is trying to address.
“Trump stands against all that gang violence and stuff, people coming over here and bringing in guns,” he said. “… That’s what they are doing.”
Grant also described Dalton — a city of about 33,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the Tennessee border billed as the “carpet capital of the world” — as economically struggling. He said the carpet industry fled overseas, and that most of the work available is temporary, and for low wages. Homes that once cost $180,000 now cost just $80,000; mobile homes are now cropping up “where they never was allowed.” Grant himself worked restoring cars until he became disabled by a back injury, neuropathy and a heart condition.
And Dalton, where Grant’s lived all his life, is also struggling with racial tension. The city is 65 percent white, 48 percent Latino.
“We’ve had problems over here with Hispanics,” he said. “They come it in our yard and tear up our blow-up [decorations] for Christmas.”
The problem with “illegals” who “overran the area” has also extended to his family’s Confederate gear, Grant said.
“We got family that served in the Civil War,” he said. “We put our flags up, had people steal flags out of the yard. It’s just been an ongoing thing. We’re the only people here who stand up for what we believe in. With political issues, people can’t handle it. When you’re messing with Trump, you’re messing with us.”
Grant also said he is “not for the racism that everyone is saying Trump is about.”
“I’m for what he’s believing in as far as the rights,” Grant said, adding that he’s the only one in town with a Trump sign. “[Trump is] about getting into the White House to straighten things out.” Asked whether he would vote for another Republican, Grant said: “No! I wouldn’t even put any of them in there. If I can’t vote for him, I’m not voting for any of them. I’m actually just an independent.”
Asked whether he had any problems with his Hispanic neighbor who saved the day, Grant said no.
“He understands,” Grant said. “He said: ‘I’m all about people having the right to what they believe in. That’s your choice. That’s your yard, that’s your property. You don’t go into another man’s yard and mess with nothing.'”
Though he said his neighbor feared retaliation, Grant did not. “I have all kinds of guns in this house,” he said.
Grant also said a Trump presidency wouldn’t just be good for for the country, but good for Dalton.
“Because once he brings all the jobs back to the United States, if he really does that, so many jobs will be available that nobody will be hurting for work,” he said.
And Grant thinks Trump can win.
“I think he will — I just think he will,” Grant said. “I think everybody wants new eyes, new work in there. They don’t want politics, they want a businessman. They tried everything else. Why not try him?”