Less than two weeks ago, widely shared videos showing a white Donald Trump supporter sucker-punching a black Trump protester at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C., became a key example of growing violence at the Republican front-runner’s campaign events. The video told a story, some said, not just about one candidate’s angry supporters but about the ugly spectacle of American racial violence in the 21st century.
“We’ve been watching all this stuff happen to everyone else,” Ronnie C. Rouse, a friend of the man punched in Fayetteville, told The Washington Post after the incident. “This isn’t Biloxi. This isn’t Montgomery. This is Fayetteville. … It’s a well-cultured area.”
Now, the world is faced with a different scenario: In Tucson, a black Trump supporter and U.S. airman faces criminal charges after sucker-punching a white Trump protester.
As seen in videos, a long-haired white man wearing an American flag shirt and carrying a sign that said, “Trump is bad for America,” was being escorted out of the Tucson Arena on Saturday when he was punched by a black Trump supporter. The crowd cheered as he began began to kick the protester when he was down. Shouts of “Trump! Trump!” began.
Trump, from the podium, was condemning protesters at his rallies just before the attack.
“There’s a disgusting guy, puts a Ku Klux Klan hat on,” Trump said as the man was being escorted out — referring to the protester’s friend, as The Post’s Jose A. DelReal reported. “He thinks he’s cute — he’s a disgusting guy.” Trump added: “They’re taking away our First Amendment rights. They’re troublemakers. They’re no good, and we better be careful. We’ve got to take our country back, folks.”
On Sunday, Trump discussed the incident with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“Frankly, that was a, you know, it was a tough thing to watch. And I watched it,” Trump said, noting that the man in the KKK hood had offended the black Trump supporter. “But why would a protester walk into a room with a Ku Klux Klan outfit on?” He added: “We don’t condone violence, and I say it,” calling the protesters “professional agitators.”
Tony Pettway, 32, was arrested after the incident on suspicion of misdemeanor assault with injury, as the Arizona Daily Star reported. Tucson’s News 4 reported that Pettway is an airman at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Pettway was not immediately available for comment.
In a statement to News 4, a representative of the base said it is “fully cooperating with local authorities, and will take appropriate action.”
“All [Defense Department] members are authorized to participate in the political process in their personal capacity without implying any endorsement from the DOD,” said Capt. Casey Osborne, chief of public affairs for the 355th Fighter Wing. “We believe wholeheartedly in our fellow Americans’ rights to express their views on political issues, and we strongly condemn any attempt to silence those views through force or violence.”
In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star, Bryan Sanders, 33, explained why he thought it was important to take a punch.
“I’m an independent,” he said, smoking a cigarette. “I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I was protesting Trump’s fascism, his racism, his lies and his women-hating.”
Sanders — who said he also recently attended a rally for the similarly named Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — said Trump’s rallies are not like other political events.
“Nobody got punched,” he said of the senator’s rally. “Nobody got thrown out. There were no protests. And the reason is that there’s two different things going on here. You’ve got this, which is fascism and an angry mob. And then you’ve got what happened last night with Bernie. And that’s democracy.”
He added: “But we’re going to stop this. This is not going to continue. If it takes somebody getting punched in the face, that’s what it takes. No problem.”