TUCSON, Ariz. — A Trump supporter beat down and repeatedly kicked a protester who was being escorted out of a campaign rally in Arizona on Saturday in what appeared to be over the presidential candidate announcing that an attendee was wearing a KKK hat—except for that the man who was beaten was not the one donning the racist attire.
While being led out of Tuscon Arena, Bryan Sanders, 33, walked several feet in front of a woman wearing KKK headgear. He had reportedly been chanting “liar” as he held a poster of Trump marked with a Confederate flag over his face, and later told reporters that he was there to protest what he perceived was the candidate’s “racism, lies and women-hating.”
Trump had called for all protesters to be removed after seeing the woman wearing a KKK-style hat in the crowd.
“He’s a disgusting guy,” Trump called out about the protester in the hat, not knowing it was a girl. “He thinks he’s cute. He’s a disgusting guy.”
Sanders was escorted out first before the KKK hat-wearer, and held up his poster as he called out to the crowd against Trump. When he reached Tony Pettway, 32, an African American man, Pettway quickly ripped the poster out of Sanders’ hand, and then proceeded to beat and kick him.
While most watched or held out their phones to record the beating, a few attendees stepped in and sought to stop Pettway from assaulting Sanders. Police also made their way up the steps and promptly placed him under arrest for assault with injury.
Seconds into Saunders’ beating—which the woman behind him seemed not to notice until it was nearly over—she took off her hat, revealing a long ponytail.
“I had a sign that said ‘Trump is bad for America,’ and a guy grabbed the sign as I was being escorted out of the building and sucker punched me,” Sanders told the Arizona Daily Star.
“I have nothing against the guy that attacked me,” he further stated to reporters. “I don’t know him. He’s just an angry person and his anger is being accentuated by the political movement.”
Some reports claim that the woman is Sanders’ girlfriend, but the information has yet to be confirmed. It is also not known whether Pettway beat Sanders because he thought he was the one wearing the KKK hat, or if he was upset about another factor.
Trump posited that the issue was over the hat.
“This happened to be an African American man who was very, very incensed that someone, a protester, would be wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit,” he said, although it was not the woman who was beaten, but the man ahead of her.
On Sunday, Trump seemed to place the responsibility for the violence on the protesters.
“At what point do people blame the protesters?” he asked. “These are professional agitators.”
Some have noted that Trump has encouraged violence at his rallies, stating that he preferred the old days where protesters could be beaten, and claiming that he would pay the legal fees of those arrested for assault.
“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of him, would you?” he said on Feb. 1 in Iowa. “Seriously, okay, just knock the H*ll. I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”
“Ah, I love the old days, you know,” Trump also said on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas. “You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches. We’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks. … I’d like to punch him in the face.”
“We had one guy in New Hampshire, actually, who was a rough guy and he was swinging and swinging and punching. He was really going down for the count and we had a couple of people in the audience who were equally rough and they took him out,” he also recalled on March 4 in Warren, Michigan. “No, they took him out and I’ll tell you what. It was really amazing to watch.”
Linda Rothman, 67, was likewise arrested at the rally for assault without injury, but police have provided no details on the incident.