A protester at a Donald Trump campaign rally was kicked and punched by a supporter of the Republican presidential front-runner on Saturday, as activists continued to shadow the real-estate billionaire a week after he was forced to postpone a rally in Chicago.
The incident occurred at a rally in Tucson, Arizona, at which more than 100 protesters were positioned so close to the entrance that it was difficult for supporters to enter the venue.
Inside the rally, a female protester wore a white sheet over her head in imitation of a Ku Klux Klan hood. She was accompanied by a male demonstrator who held a sign with a Confederate flag imprinted on Trump’s face. As local police attempted to remove the pair, an African-American Trump supporter enraged at the appearance of the woman in the sheet kicked the man with the sign three times and punched him once.
Trump called the protester with the hood “really disgusting,” adding that “they’re taking away our First Amendment rights.” Authorities inside the rally also removed about a dozen protesters from the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
“They’re going to get a little television so their mom can say, ‘Hello,’” Trump said. He criticized the demonstrators who were outside “making it so it’s a very narrow passageway” for people to enter. “What’s the purpose?” he asked. “I apologize for the people that are coming in.”
Megan Dulce, 18, a Mexican-American who lives in Tucson and is supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, said she heard about the protest on social media.
“What he says about us Mexicans? It’s dumb. He wants to throw us all out,” she said.
Confrontations with protesters have dogged the campaign from event to event. On Friday in Salt Lake City, several demonstrators outside the venue where Trump was speaking were forcibly removed to white tents near the entrance. About a dozen police officers in riot gear were brought in to disperse the crowd. There were no reported injuries.
On Saturday morning in Phoenix, local police arrested three protesters — including at least one who chained himself to a car — in the middle of a highway while they were attempting to prevent people from attending a Trump rally there.
In Tucson, Trump was accompanied by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who endorsed the candidate in January and, like Trump, is a staunch advocate of deporting immigrants who are in the country illegally. Trump said Arpaio instructed authorities to break up the highway protests in Phoenix. “They arrested three people, and everybody else left,” Trump said.
Arpaio introduced Trump and criticized the protesters for trying to “intimidate” people who wanted to attend the rally. He said he would “lock up the demonstrators and throw them in jail.”
Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, a Republican who backs Trump, also criticized the protesters, asking the crowd if they had seen “the jerks standing outside the door” at the rally. “They have a First Amendment right to be as stupid as they want.”