Usama first noticed the man — white, in his 20s or 30s, motorcycle in tow — because the motorcyclist was berating a black man who Usama thought had asked for some gas money.
“The man was yelling at the African American guy, calling him a lazy ass, saying, ‘You guys don’t work,'” Usama told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “He was using racial slurs.”
Then, the man turned his attention to Usama, a 23-year-old Muslim senior from Bangladesh, and his friend, a Hispanic male. He pulled his bike in front of Usama’s green Acura.
“We both have brown skin color,” Usama said. “… He said, ‘Hey you brown trash, you better go home.'”
Usama said his friend replied: “It’s my country. Who the hell are you to tell me, ‘Go home?'” The man pushed Usama’s friend and said, according to Usama: “Say that again.” Usama’s friend pushed back.
Then, Usama said the beating began.
“He seemed to be looking for a fight,” Usama said. “… The man started punching my friend. My friend dodged the first punch. I got in the middle of them — I told my friend to get back in the car. [The man] pushed me and he hit me over.” Then, he turned back to Usama’s friend, “kicking him in the stomach, indiscriminately punching him,” Usama said. He called 911. And, while the student was waiting for police to arrive and as the alleged beating continued, the motorcyclist took a moment to weigh in on the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
“He was shouting, ‘Trump!'” Usama said. “‘Trump will take our country from you guys!'”
The man eventually got back on his bike and, before police arrived, circled Usama and his now prostrate friend. (The alleged beating was reported by the Wichita Eagle early Monday morning.)
“He was chanting, ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!'” Usama said. “‘Make America great again! You guys are the losers! You guys, we’ll throw you over the wall!'” Usama added: “You know, the usual things you see at a Trump rally.”
Usama and his friend, who did not wish to speak to the media, escaped without serious injury and reported the incident as a hate crime, Usama said. But after outbreaks of violence at Trump rallies and elsewhere — and unheeded calls for the candidate to try to stop them — the alleged attack in Kansas again suggests how violence is becoming associated with Trump’s White House bid.
(In a separate incident in Evanston, Ill., two Northwestern University students were accused of vandalizing a nondenominational chapel on campus, spray-painting racist and homophobic messages, including a swastika, according to the Chicago Tribune. The two wrote Trump’s name inside the chapel, the Tribune reported. A Cook County judge ordered Anthony Morales, 19, and Matthew Kafker, 18, held in lieu of $50,000 bail on charges of vandalism and hate-crimes.)
After Trump-supporting brothers were accused of assaulting and urinating on a Hispanic man in August in Boston, Trump said his fans were “very passionate.” After a fight erupted between protesters and police last year in Birmingham, Ala., 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 not long ago, where police are investigating two alleged assaults of protesters, Trump 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.” There was the “cowboy action” reenactor charged with assault Thursday after he appeared to sucker punch a protester — and Trump said he’s “looking into” paying the 78-year-old man’s legal fees. There were the security concerns created by thousands of protesters that led Trump to cancel a Chicago rally Friday night and the skirmishes at the venue that resulted. And there was the man who rushed the podium at a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday.
“I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump said after the man was taken away. “And to think I had such an easy life! What do I need this for, right?”
On Sunday, the candidate declined to cool his rhetoric.
“The reason there’s tension at my rallies is that these people are sick and tired of this country being run by incompetent people that don’t know what they’re doing on trade deals, where our jobs are being ripped out of our country,” he said on “Meet the Press.” “… Our military’s not being taken care of; we can’t even beat ISIS. On our vets, who are being treated horribly. Frankly, they’re being treated worse than illegal immigrants. The people are angry at that. They’re not angry about something I’m saying. I’m just a messenger.” He also blamed supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont vying for the Democratic presidential nomination — and offered a threat of his own.
“Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disrupters aren’t told to go to my events,” he tweeted. “Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!”
Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren't told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2016
Back in Kansas, Usama expressed surprise at the attack.
Though in a mostly white, conservative community, Wichita State, with 15,000 students, “is the most diverse public institution in the state of Kansas,” Usama said, and the campus, with about 1,200 Muslims, “is more accepting” than other parts of the state. (The president of the school’s Muslim Student Association was recently profiled in The Washington Post.)
Still: Out of nowhere, for no reason, Usama and his friend were targeted, he said.
“We didn’t know that guy,” he said. “I do not recall any prior acquaintance with this suspect. He didn’t show any sign of knowing me. I don’t know how come a person who doesn’t know another person, just based on skin color, can attack and verbally abuse like that.”
As the police investigation continued, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) came to Usama’s defense — and blamed Trump.
“I think it’s clear that, with this kind of incendiary, inflammatory rhetoric, this kind of thing is almost inevitable,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s national communications director, said in a telephone interview with The Post. “People out there who support him take it upon themselves to commit these kinds of acts. While the vast majority of Trump supporters obviously wouldn’t engage in this kind of violence, there’s a tiny minority who will. He should make a clear public statement that violence in his name is unacceptable and that he repudiates any supporter who would commit an act of violence in his name.”
“We urge law enforcement authorities to treat this alleged assault as a hate crime and for local, state and federal elected officials and candidates to repudiate the apparent political and racial motive for the attack,” CAIR-Kansas board chairman Moussa Elbayoumy said in an emailed statement. “Donald Trump should himself repudiate this alleged hate crime, apparently committed by one of his supporters.”
Trump-related tension isn’t new to Usama. He said that, over Thanksgiving, he was at a party when he met a man who asked for his “Muslim ID.” He thought the man was kidding, but the man tried to explain: How could he know Usama was a “good Muslim”? The man, Usama said, was a Trump supporter.
“Mr. Trump has a lot of responsibility to this escalated, tense atmosphere that we are facing today,” he said. “If he could have been a bit more responsible in what he is saying in the media and in public, I believe people wouldn’t have gone this crazy, as we saw today. Things are getting crazy.”