The people of Alabama are a proud southern community who take pride in their nearly 20 national college football championships, their elite Auburn University alumni that include 6 astronauts, the ability to make delicious sweet tea, and certainly not the least, their capacity to exemplify some of our nations best homegrown "southern charm". It is this very state that our favorite American literature and movies were set, such as To Kill A Mockingbird, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Forrest Gump.
November 21, 2015 forever set a very different reason for the nation to remember the people of Alabama, when they became the first location in the 2016 Presidential Race to erupt in violence during a Donald Trump rally. In the city of Birmingham, a Black Lives Matter protester, 31-year old Mercutio Southall, was reportedly punched in the face, punched in the neck and kicked in the chest and stomach. The violent incident, which had been video recorded on several phones, escalated so much that Southall was choked while down on the ground, in which a woman near the attack can be heard yelling on the video, "Don't choke him. Don't choke him!" Mercutio told police that he was only able to relieve the choking when he punched the attacker in the groin. Southall was attacked by approximately half a dozen Trump supporters who reacted to Black Lives Matter protesters yelling "Dump the Trump!" and "Black Lives Matter!" during the presidential hopefuls rally.
At a Fox and Friends interview the following morning, Donald Trump was asked about the man which the interviewer referred to as "roughed up". Trump responded to the interviewers reference of his supporters "roughing up" Southall by saying, "Roughed up? Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing."
Though it's hard to imagine the people of Alabama displaying anything but manners and hospitality, they became the first of several states to display violence at Donald Trump presidential rallies.
Donald Trump has seemingly given as much support to his fan base as they have given to him throughout his Presidential campaign. The unwavering loyalty between Trump and his supports has at times given the message that there is little they can do to have their actions condemned by the Presidential hopeful. In fact, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the day of the Iowa Caucus (February 1, 2016), Donald Trump was quoted in saying to his supporters, "Knock the crap out of anybody getting ready to throw a tomato. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise." In fact, this message was delivered on day of the first major electoral event of the presidential race, and became the verbal approval of physical violence against protesters that would pave the road for several on the "Trump Train."
Only weeks later, at a Las Vegas rally on the eve of the Nevada caucus, Trump had more to say about a protester who was escorted out of the rally for being vocal about his opposition to the presidential candidate. Trump was perhaps equally as vocal as he responded from the podium, "I'd like to punch him in the face." Trump later described his comment as the way he felt while witnessing the protester smiling and "having a good time" as he was escorted out of the Las Vegas rally on February 22. Trump went on to say that he felt the security staff were too easy on the protester and was quoted in saying, "In the old days, protesters would be carried out on stretchers. We're not allowed to push back anymore."
Supporters of Donald Trumps have been eager to please the Republican candidate, and were happy to prove their loyalty by way of physical altercations with protesters as the race continued.
It isn't only the impassioned Trump supporters who can make their point loud and clear. Protesters who attended the Louisville, Kentucky rally on March 1 were the first to file a lawsuit against at least three Trump supporters who became physical with them at the event. In addition, they also filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump himself, claiming that he incited the crowd to act in violence by repeatedly pointing to protesters and telling supporters to, "Get them out of here."
One of the protesters was 21-year old Kashiya Nwanguma who was assaulted by several Trump supporters who shoved and pushed her as she was escorted out of the rally. The incident was captured on video and became a viral example of the growing divide between Trump supporters and protesters. It was later learned that at least two of the Trump supporters who were involved in the assault on Nwanguma are members of The Traditionalist Worker Party, which has been described as a known hate group for their belief that the "European-American identity is under constant attack." Being that Nwanguma is a woman of color, the assault on her by members of the Traditionalist Worker Party at the Trump rally created an even greater national plea that a message to encourage peace be made by the Trump campaign, rather than any words to incite violence or rioting.
The hope that the Trump campaign would deliver a strong message of peace to their supporters did not happen. In fact, the only thing delivered in the days following the assault in Kentucky was a sucker punch by 78-year old John McGraw to a Black Lives Matter protester at the North Carolina rally. On March 9, McGraw took a strong swing at the protester and followed the punch with the following statement, "The next time we see him we may have to kill him. He might be with a terrorist organization."
The victim of the assault, Rakeem Jones, claims that he was in attendance at the Trump rally with a "diverse group" of four people - including a white woman, a Muslim, and a gay man. Jones is an African-American male. He claims that though people in his group were shouting, so were Trump supporters, and says that no one in his group had attempted to get physical. He later stated that he was upset that the Cumberland County officers who escorted him out had witnessed the sucker punch but had not detained McGraw, and instead continued to escort Jones out of the event. Jones has since filed charges against John McGraw, which include assault and disorderly conduct, and communicating threats. The department has also opened an internal investigation of whether officers should have arrested McGraw on site and have obtained video footage from the event for review.
The 2016 Presidential Race is far from over, but with Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, the "Trump Train" has only grown stronger and more determined to see him take his place as the next President of the United States. If the future of our country is Donald Trump as President, let us hope he does more than simply...roll with the punches.