The atmosphere grew tense, reported The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan, as protesters repeatedly interrupted his speech. Some of them made obscene gestures as they were removed from the premises. At one point, a man took a fighting stance and then pushed and grabbed male protesters and swatted at a female protester. The protesters appeared to be in an antagonistic verbal exchange with the man.
Trump, at one point, commented, “Is there anywhere in America more fun to be than a Trump rally?”
The woman who was punched outside the venue, Shirley Teter, described herself in an interview with WLOS-TV as a lifelong protester, who got involved in the anti-Trump protest because the situation is “sickening my heart.”
At first, she told the station, she was having fun. “Whenever groups of them would start chanting ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’ I would chant back, ‘Dump! Dump! Dump! Dump!’ It was kind of comical.”
Things got uglier as people were leaving, she said, when she taunted them, saying “‘You better learn to speak Russian,'” a reference to Trump’s praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin. “‘The first two words are going to be ha-ha,'” she told WLOS.
At that point, a man “stopped in his tracks, and he turned around and just cold-cocked me,” punching her in the face.
She said she fell on the tank she carried in a backpack and was treated at a hospital for sore ribs, a sore jaw and a scrape on her elbow.
Matt Price, a witness, told the Citizen-Times of Asheville that he saw Teter fall and heard a loud “metal clank” when her oxygen tank hit the ground. “Then a little eruption ensued and some people chased down that guy and there was a little heated moment right there before the cops stepped in.”
Police told the Citizen-Times they did not make an immediate arrest because they had not witnessed the incident.
The rally, at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, was attended by roughly 7,000 people. There were protesters and scuffles inside and outside the rally.
On Tuesday, police said they issued a warrant for Richard L. Campbell of Edisto Island, S.C., in connection with the assault on Teter. He could not be located for comment.