Midway into his speech, the crowd suddenly grew restless, so Donald Trump paused.
An increasing number of people began pointing at a person to Trump's right. Soon, hundreds of people who had gathered for his Wednesday evening campaign rally in Kinston, N.C., were frantically waving their “Trump Pence” signs in that direction.
Trump glanced at the person his supporters were singling out: A black man wearing a suit jacket and sunglasses.
“That's all right, leave him alone,” said Trump, who at first seemed dismissive of what he saw.
He quickly pivoted.
“We have a protester,” Trump declared. The crowd booed.
“By the way, were you paid $1,500 to be a thug?” he said, seemingly addressing both the crowd and the person simultaneously. “Where's the protester? Where is he? Was he paid?”
(Trump has accused Clinton's campaign of paying protesters to disrupt his rallies after an online video sting by the conservative group Project Veritas Action captured a Democratic operative describing “conflict engagement in the lines at Trump rallies.” The Washington Post's Fact Checker noted that Trump had “jumbled up a lot of the issues brought up in the video by Project Veritas” and rated the claim “Three Pinocchios.")
Somewhere in the crowd, Trump's security detail escorted a man out of the rally as the audience cheered.
“You can get him out,” Trump said, making a sideways motion with his thumb. “Get him out.”
The person in question turned out to be C.J. Cary, a North Carolina resident, who claims to be a longtime Trump supporter.
Cary, in a phone interview Saturday with The Washington Post, said he had gone to the rally because he wanted to hand-deliver a note to the Republican presidential nominee. He made his way to about 20 to 30 feet from the stage and was shouting “Donald!” while waving his note around to try to catch his attention.
“Everyone else is waving Trump signs and I'm waving this white letter,” Cary, 63, said. He said that, coupled with the fact that he was wearing sunglasses during an evening rally to deal with his sensitivity to light, may have been what set people off.
That's when Trump's crowd turned on him, and Cary was removed from.
Cary said a security official noticed he appeared to be a supporter but said he should not have disrupted the rally.
“He asked me, 'What happened? You have on a GOP badge,'" Cary said. “I said, 'I'm yelling at Donald, and he thinks I'm a protester.'”
Cary explained that he had wanted to hand Trump a note, and the security official agreed to deliver the letter on Cary's behalf, he said.
"'If you had just gotten this to us we would have given it to him,'" Cary said he was told. "'But now that people think you're a protester, it's better that you leave.'”
In video footage, Cary can be seen waving to the crowd as he is escorted out of the rally. He later said it was “all fine” and that he still plans on voting for Trump.
Cary has not heard back officially from the Trump campaign but says at least one Trump surrogate in Georgia reached out to him after the incident.
“I was a little sad [that I was escorted out] but was more happy than sad because my purpose for being there was to give that document to Donald,” Cary said. “My mission was to make sure I got it in the right hands, because someone could have just easily tossed it or dropped it.”
The note Cary wanted to deliver was an eight-page document that emphasized that he was against both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and President Obama: “I have to get ready to come to Kinston,” it read in part. “Donald I am not including everything. But you must defeat lying Hillary and lying Obama. These characters are bad really bad.”
Cary says he is a Marine veteran and Trump campaign volunteer, and he claims to have been corresponding with Trump since 1992. That year he wrote Donald and Ivana Trump “an impassioned letter” upon hearing they were separating. To his surprise, he says, Donald Trump wrote back, and he has been an ardent supporter of his ever since.
According to a report in the Rocky Mount Telegram, Cary has struggled with vandalism or theft of the more than 40 Trump signs he kept on his home in North Carolina town about 60 miles northeast of Raleigh.
Cary told The Post that he now has about 100 signs on his yard.
“I support Trump because he's honest,” Cary told the Telegram. “You can work with an honest person and convince them their vision isn't in the best interest of everyone. You can't work with dishonest people. That's why I don't like Obama — the worst president in American history.”
It was not the first time a Trump supporter has been ousted from one of his rallies. In August, Jake Anantha, a half-Indian student at Central Piedmont Community College, attended a Trump rally in Charlotte
“And what happened there shook my faith,” Anantha wrote in a guest column for The Post afterward. Security officials told Anantha that he was a “known protester,” and despite evidence to the contrary, insisted that he must leave.
“I still don’t know why I was asked to leave. But I think it has something to do with my race,” Anantha wrote. “My mother is white and my father is Indian. When [Trump's head of security Eddie] Deck saw me, I wonder whether he noticed that I look different from most Trump supporters. I wonder whether he assumed that I couldn’t possibly support Trump because of how I look.”
From the start of his campaign, Trump frequently has been accused of being racist, perhaps most notably because of his years-long refusal to acknowledge that Obama was born in the United States.
Trump and his surrogates deny allegations that he is racist. Most recently, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani defended Trump on MSNBC by saying that “to call anyone a racist is outrageous” and noting that Trump has golf partners of different races.
“Racist? The last thing in the world Donald Trump is is a racist,” Giuliani told “MSNBC Live” anchor Stephanie Ruhle. “I’ve known him for 28 years. The man likes white people. He likes black people. He likes Hispanic people. He plays golf with them.”