Sunday, March 20, 2016

Protester Punched, Kicked at Donald Trump Rally in Arizona
NBC News

A Donald Trump rally that began with near-constant interruptions reached a violent crescendo Saturday when a protester was punched and kicked while being escorted out.

At the event in Tucson, a man dressed in an American flag shirt and holding a sign showing Trump's face with the slogan "Bad for America," was pulled to the ground by someone in the stands. He was punched at least once and kicked several times before police separated the two men.

Officers handcuffed the audience member and walked him out of the arena at the Tucson Convention Center. The man, later identified as Tony Pettway. 32, was charged with assault with injury, a class 1 misdemeanor, police said.

The protester who was punched, Bryan Sanders, said he didn't recall Pettway saying anything before the sign he was holding was ripped from his hand and he was punched.

"I stumble back, sucker punch from the left and then you saw all hell break loose," Sanders told NBC News later Saturday.

"What was going through my mind was: Put your arms over your head, because this political movement has gotten to the point where you may get beat to death inside of a rally," Sanders said.

Trump noticed the disturbance during his remarks, pointing to the stands and saying, "That's a disgrace."

It's unclear if Trump was referring to the protesters or the violence.

"They're taking away our First Amendment rights. They're troublemakers, they're no good, and we have to be careful," Trump said. "We've gotta take our country back, folks. We gotta take our country back, very simple."

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Video of the clash also shows a person in a white hood, following behind, delivering what appeared to be a Nazi salute.

"There's a disgusting guy, puts a Ku Klux Klan hat on," Trump said. "He thinks he's cute. He's a disgusting guy."

Later, he referred to the person again. "These are bad people, I'm telling you. And they're not really protesters. They're agitators."

At a March 9 Trump event in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a member of the crowd sucker punched a man being ejected. Critics have accused Trump's rhetoric of encouraging violence. Trump has said he does not condone violence.

Sanders, who said he is an independent and plans to vote for Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's primary, said he expected the crowd might be hostile but was surprised by the violence.

"I understand that people support Donald Trump, but do they support this type of scene?" he said. "Really?"

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