Just like the campaign season, post-election campaign events supporting the president have become the scene of all kinds of ugliness as counter-protesters push back.
Hundreds of Donald Trump supporters in dozens of cities around the nation held local pro-Trump rallies this weekend, but not all were peaceful.
The rallies—originally organized to celebrate an anticipated repeal of the American Care Act that did not come about when the House canceled its vote on repeal legislation—went ahead anyway “as a show of support for the administration’s fast-moving agenda,” as Breitbart News put it.
Most of the rallies—in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego, Nashville, and Lansing, Michigan—drew only medium-sized crowds. Opponents showed up to counter-protest, and in some locales such as Philadelphia, outnumbered pro-Trump protesters.
And there was the inevitable friction, especially where members of the anarchist “Black Bloc” became involved. The masked, black-clad “anti-fascists” led chants to interrupt the rallies and began scuffling with the red-hatted objects of their protest.
At rallies in Huntington Beach, California, Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and Salem, Oregon, fights broke out, though police quickly intervened in each case and prevented the violence from spreading. The scene at Huntington Beach very nearly descended into a running melee, with one of its organizers getting hit with pepper spray.
Four counter-protesters were arrested, three for illegal use of pepper spray and one for assault and battery, according to a spokesman for the California State Parks Police.
Some of the self-described “Patriots” who showed up to support Trump also were seen wearing masks of their own, notably at the rally in Salem led by antigovernment organizations such as the militia-oriented “3 Percenters.”
One of these “Patriots” approached and surrounded a black man from Portland named Cameron Whitten, who had come to the rally, he said, to ask people questions. Some of the pro-Trump bloc apparently misidentified Whitten as Micah Rhodes, a Portland black man arrested as a sex offender for sex with underage girls.
They wound up haranguing and threatening Whitten. “I suggest you get back over on that side right now,” a masked man told him, “before I fucking kick your ass for fucking raping little kids, you son of a bitch.” He claimed “we have done a shit-ton of research on you.”
Whitten kept asking the man to identify him, if in fact he knew who he was. The man, joined by several of his friends, continued to threaten him until they were distracted by reports of a flag burning.
One man, Matthew Heagy of Terrebonne, was arrested for pepper-spraying a police officer. Another pro-Trump supporter was briefly detained for having a gun at the rally, but was released, police said.
Violence trailed President Trump’s rallies all during the 2016 campaign, encouraged by the then-candidate’s own rhetoric. Trump openly told participants at one rally to “beat the hell out of” protesters, told them he’d like to “punch [a protester] in the face,” and later described for his rally-goers the violent fate that “back in the old days” was expected for such protesters.