State News

Fingers point in many directions after attack at Trump rally

Posted March 10, 2016
Updated March 11, 2016

— To Rakeem Jones, flanked on all sides by uniformed sheriff's deputies, it was more than just the shock of being ejected from a political rally for Donald Trump. The black man felt as if he was being transported back in time.

"It's not the America they portray on TV," the 26-year-old said Thursday, the day after he was wrestled to the ground by officers and punched in the face during the campaign event in Fayetteville.

But to friend Ronnie Rouse, who caught the incident on video, it was "totally American."

"This is the America everybody wants to ignore," the music producer told The Associated Press Thursday. "This is the America, when people tell you, 'Oh, racism doesn't exist.' It's here."

"We don't put up with this kind of action at any place, whether it's a rally or a public get-together or whatever," said Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler.

He has asked his internal affairs investigators to review video from the event to see if disciplinary action should be taken against any deputy who witnessed the assault and didn't make an arrest on the spot. If necessary, that discipline could range from a letter of reprimand to termination, Butler said.

In Linden, Chrystal Janard was shocked to learn it was her neighbor, John Franklin McGraw, who threw the punch that sparked reaction across the national media.

Tony Janard said he was familiar with McGraw's fighting history – he had been a Golden Gloves boxer – but didn't expect it to surface at a political event.

"He's really, really good," he said. "He fought Floyd Patterson. He trained with Sonny Liston. He gave us, like, a scenario and a list of good fighters he used to train and spar with."

McGraw, 78, was charged Thursday with assault and battery and disorderly conduct after Butler saw Rouse's video. Authorities said that Jones was being escorted out of the rally after disrupting Trump’s speech when McGraw edged his way to the end of the row and hit Jones in the head and face as deputies were looking away.

"He hit me dead in my eye," Jones said.

Chrystal Janard said she knew McGraw was a Trump supporter, but she didn't recognize him in the video.

"I thought that was crazy," Janard said.

McGraw was unrepentant in an interview with Inside Edition. "Knocked the hell out of him," he said. "Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him."

"Are you stupid?" Janard asked Friday. "This world is crazy as it is. To make a verbal threat to somebody and state that next time that we just might have to kill him is crazy. That's just unreal."

McGraw's comments in that interview earned him an additional charge of communicating threats and boosted his bond to $5,000.

McGraw made bond immediately. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 6.

Clashes between supporters and protesters have become a regular thing at Trump rallies, and while security experts say Trump has every right to quash dissent at events he's paying for, they say the Republican front-runner is playing with fire by not tamping down uncivil behavior and assault.

"I would go so far as to say that I find that abhorrent," security consultant Stan Kephart, a former police chief in Arizona and California, said of Trump's failure to call out his pugnacious followers. "To me, he's pressing the line. He's doing things that you would see a showman do."

Representatives of the Trump campaign declined comment to WRAL News about the event in Fayetteville, but the candidate has spoken fondly of the "good old days" when police could rough protesters up without fear of backlash.

"But today," he said Wednesday in Fayetteville, "they walk in and they put their hand up and they put the wrong finger in the air ... and they get away with murder because we've become weak."

During Thursday night's debate in Miami, Trump said some of the protesters at his rallies "are bad dudes and have done bad things." But he said he hopes he hasn't played a role in inciting the violence with some of his provocative language.

The role of law enforcement in these situations is not simple.

"We respect folks' First Amendment rights to free speech. We're not there to police the protesters," said Robert K. Hoback, a spokesman for the Secret Service, commenting on reports that Secret Service agents escorted protesters out of a recent Trump event in Georgia. He said they only act on threats to the "protectee."

Crowd control expert Paul Wertheimer, who has been keeping track of Trump events, said he hasn't seen any instances where law enforcement or private security have overstepped. But he thinks the candidate should show more tolerance for protest.

"I think he, in general, knows what he's doing, and he does this intentionally to stir up the crowd," said Wertheimer, head of Los Angeles-based Crowd Management Strategies.

Kephart, the ex-police chief, agrees that Trump should be a little more willing to take the boos and heckling. What he shouldn't tolerate, he said, is violence.

"If you don't say anything, you're assenting to it. You're saying it's OK," he said.


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  • Mike Smith Mar 12, 2016
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    If McGraw has the boxing expertise claimed in this article, he should be charged with aggravated assault, not simply assault and battery.

  • Johnathan Gault Mar 12, 2016
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    Further, these are not random acts, they are being well coordinated by 15 million from George Soros. I find it quite despicable, that the left has to resort to violence and are being funded by their 1% billionaire. One has to ask what is going on here? Has the Sal Alisnky model been update beyond ridicule to now include violence? Hillary takes a lot of money from Soros' PACs.

  • Johnathan Gault Mar 12, 2016
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    Very well put Barrett, if you try to supress someone's right to free speech expect repercussions. The entitlement class needs to understand he is not going away, and they are just embloding his supporters even further. I was on the fence but every group I despise,hates Trump. So I am voting for Trump, working for Trump and contributing. I doubt these malcontents at the Trump rally are contributing to their candidate. I bet they are not even voting Tuesday.

  • Barrett Powell Mar 12, 2016
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    This story and the event simply underline the sense of anger and frustration in this Country. Going to a Trump rally and attempting to disrupt it only ads fuel to the flame and gives supporters even more reason to support him (which I don't). I understand the anger and frustration.

    There is a bit of baiting going on here which is also counterproductive. Not trying to justify the guy getting sucker punched and the reaction of the police. It was disgraceful all the way around, including the police reaction. But if you go to a highly charged political event and stand in the middle of an already angry crowd and start dissing their candidate what do you expect is going to happen? You already know and that's my point. Your there to get your 15 minutes of fame and the crowd grows angrier. Not saying it's right...just stating a fact. In fact, the gentleman who got punched has already started a "Media" page on Facebook to try and capitalize on his fame.

  • Doug Smallen Mar 12, 2016
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    Just couldn't write this story without slipping in some Racism into it, could you. Please prove the Racism if you wish to.

  • Doug Smallen Mar 12, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Get your facts straight only only one incident included the legal fee. quote, no one threw the Tomato. I noticed the R word in the story without any proof, can you provide the evidence, just a note to in the Liberal biased story, Liberals just can't write a story without it.
    Back at the beginning of February, after there were rumors that some protestors would try to throw tomatoes at him, Trump told his supporters to "knock the of out of" any protestors they saw throwing tomatoes. "I will pay for the legal fees. I promise."

  • Donna Gale Mar 12, 2016
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    Someone from WRAL should ask the "gentleman " whether anyone from Trump's organization has contacted him to pay his bail and upcoming legal fees....I doubt it.

  • John Snow Mar 12, 2016
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    Trump has stated that some of the protesters should be roughed up, he has said that he would like to punch one in the face, and he has said that he would pay the legal fees of someone who does so at one of his rallies. He is condoning and inciting violence and does have some culpability.

    That being said, I hope he wins the repub nom because he can't win a national election which are decided by those in the middle. So let the show continue.

  • Byrd Ferguson Mar 12, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Exactly. The foolish protester (whatever his race) was looking for trouble, and he got it. People are tired of the politically correct, race baiting, and Reverend Barber nonsense. Don't use race as an excuse for poor behavior. There are plenty of examples of this around now, if the liberal media would care to report on it.

  • Hamilton Bean Mar 12, 2016
    user avatar

    A little common sense needs to come into play here. Neither Trump, Cruz, Clinton nor Sanders can exert any control over the behavior of people attending their rallies. Its stupid to think that they can. And its even more stupid to blame the candidate for something they cannot control. However exercised a supporter may be, it is incumbent on the individual to conduct themselves appropriately. If they don't then the consequences of their actions are all on them.