The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is looking into an incident that occurred at a Donald Trump rally in North Carolina last Thursday, and Trump himself is part of that investigation, according to a statement released Monday:
Our investigation is not complete as the incidents of Wednesday, March 10, 2016. We are continuing to look at the totality of these circumstances, including any additional charges against Mr. McGraw, including the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot, and including the actions or inactions [sic] of our deputies.
The incident involves a Trump supporter — 78-year-old John McGraw — punching a protester and then threatening to kill him "next time." His reasoning? "We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization." McGraw was arrested and charged with assault after a video of the incident went viral. The Sheriff's Office is also reportedly investigating the officers who escorted the protester out of the rally after they tackled him to the ground. The protester, Rakeem Jones, told The Washington Post, "The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging."
After the video went viral, Trump came to McGraw's defense, stating, "The man got carried away. He was 78 years old, he obviously loves his country, and maybe he doesn’t like seeing what’s happening to the country." Trump also suggested he would pay the man's legal fees. On Jones, Trump commented, "He was very taunting. He was very loud, very disruptive."
The North Carolina incident is not the first of its kind. Since August, Trump has frequently called on his supporters to rough up protesters who speak out during his rallies. He has repeatedly made statements at his events like "Knock the crap out of them," "I'd like to punch him in the face," and has even said in the past that he would defend someone in court for hurting a protester, "Try not to hurt him. If you do, I'll defend you in court, don't worry about it."
On Friday night, after cancelling a rally at the University of Illinois Chicago Pavilion, Trump defended the action, citing "safety concerns." He spoke to CNN's Don Lemon saying, "I certainly don’t incite violence and ... I don’t condone violence." If nothing else, Trump's continued hateful rhetoric has incited fear in his supporters. This is true even in McGraw's case, as he made an unfounded claim that the protester could have ties to terrorism. Sorry, Donald, but your record really does prove otherwise.