Local News

Protester to return for Trump's Fayetteville rally; man charged with punching him may not

Posted August 8, 2016 6:10 p.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2016 6:42 p.m. EDT

— In Donald Trump's first visit to Fayetteville since a March rally in which a protester was punched, the protester will likely make a return appearance, but the man accused of hitting him is waiting for a personal invitation.

Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has a rally scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crown Coliseum, following a 2 p.m. appearance in Wilmington.

"Give them fair warning that we're going to be there, not even a warning, just a heads up that we'll be there," Rakeem Jones said of himself and three other protesters who were removed during Trump's March 9 rally at Crown Coliseum.

Jones said the foursome plans to attend "like last time just to go watch" but wouldn't say whether any more protests are planned.

The March rally made national headlines when Jones was hit in the face as he was being escorted out of the arena by Cumberland County deputies.

John Franklin McGraw, 79, of Linden, was charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and communicating threats. The case has been continued until December – after the election.

"Someone said he threw a finger in my face. I thought he threw a punch at me. I blocked it and decked him," McGraw said Monday, recounting the incident. "It was just that simple. It had nothing to do with politics, had nothing to do with race. There's been a lot of race involved, but it hasn't been on my part."

The 26-year-old Jones is black, while McGraw is white.

Jones declined to comment on McGraw's version of the encounter.

The altercation led Cumberland County authorities to briefly consider charging Trump with inciting a riot and later to demote three deputies and suspend two others who saw the alleged assault but took no action.

Ronnie Mitchell, the lawyer for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said the agency has adjusted its procedures and is prepared for any violence that might occur Tuesday.

McGraw, a former Golden Gloves boxer nicknamed "Quick Draw," said he doesn't plan to attend Trump's rally Tuesday evening unless the campaign invites him, which he said would be unlikely. The campaign had promised to pay his legal bills, but it was unclear Monday whether that was still the case.

He has spent most of his time since the March incident making custom holsters in a workshop behind his travel camper.

"It had nothing to do but with one thing: There were people out of hand, out of control, threatening me, and I defended myself," he said.