A man was viciously attacked at a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, the latest incident in an increasing trend of violence carried out by supporters or security staff of the Republican Party frontrunner.
The assailant, wearing a ponytail and a cowboy hat, was arrested and charged by local police. He was later identified as 78-year-old John McGraw, who admitted to Inside Edition that he liked "knocking the hell out of that big mouth." When asked why he puched the protester, McGraw said: "Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS."
"We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American," he added. "The next time we see him, we might have to kill him."
The physical attacks on protesters, often subtly encouraged from the podium, have caused considerable disquiet among US election commentators, some going as far as to compare Trump supporters to the Nazi Brownshirts.
However, these are not organised attacks carried out by party thugs, but spontaneous violence by men (always men) that feel empowered by Trump’s bombastic rhetoric to attack detractors of their cause.
That's not to downplay their significance. Even for an election that has ripped at the boundaries of normality, physical violence is an unexpected trend in a country whose First Amendment guarantees the right to voice opposition. And for all the rancor and bigotry of the American hard right during the Obama years, there was no accompanying violence until the tycoon launched his White House bid from a gold escalator in June.
The candidate has repeatedly said he cannot control what happens in the large crowds that attend his rallies. Trump could, of course, discourage it but has shown little inclination to dampen the frenzy that has carried him to within a blond hair of the GOP nomination. He even encourages violence, telling a protester at a recent rally in Las Vegas that he'd "like to punch him in the face.”
As the New York Daily News recently argued, should the violence continue there’s a strong likelihood someone could be seriously injured or killed at a rally. Not that it would damage his polling. As Trump pointed out earlier this year: "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."
Below is a litany of aggression from supporters and agents of the brash billionaire builder.
An African-American woman is shoved at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky on March 1, 2016.
A Trump supporter shouts 'light the motherfucker on fire' as an African-American protester is removed at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 14, 2015.
And about ten minutes into the Trump rally, this happens. pic.twitter.com/65pXHjsJ3x— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) December 15, 2015
A Trump security guard punches an immigration activist during a protest on December 3, 2015 in New York City.
Trump supporters attack an African-American protester during a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on November 21, 2015.
An African-American protester at a rally in Richmond, Virginia is spat at by a Trump supporter on October 14, 2015.