White nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who is accused of assaulting protesters at a campaign rally for Donald Trump last year—an event caught on video—has filed a counter lawsuit claiming that Trump had directed him and others at the rally to handle the protesters.
In the lawsuit filed on Monday, Heimbach denied that he was responsible for “physically assaulting” protesters, but claimed that he was acting “in reasonable defense of others” if he had. The lawsuit also claims that Heimbach “relied on Trump’s reputation and expertise in doing the things alleged.”
“Heimbach relied on Trump’s authority to order disruptive persons removed and that Trump was legally within his rights to ask other attendees to assist in defending their constitutional rights against ‘protestors’ who were disrupting,” the lawsuit claimed.
The legal battle stems from a campaign rally in March 2016, when Trump supporters, including Heimbach, physically removed protesters after Trump said, from the stage, “Get ‘em out of here!” Video of the encounter shows Heimbach wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, visibly enraged and pushing Shiya Nwanguama, a University of Louisville student.
Four other protesters filed criminal complaints with police in Louisville after the rally, but prosecutors initially declined to press charges.
Then, last March, Nwanguama filed a lawsuit naming Heimbach and two others—Alvin Bamberger, a 75-year-old Ohio resident, and Joseph Pryor of Indiana—alleging they had shoved and struck her after Trump stopped his speech to direct supporters. Four months later, in July, Louisville police charged Heimbach, Bamberger and Pryor with harassment with physical contact.
Heimbach’s lawsuit mirrors one filed by Bamberger, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, Politico reported. Bamberger’s lawsuits claimed in their filing that Bamberger admits “only that he touched a woman,” but that he “denies that he assaulted that woman. His lawyers also stressed that “to the extent that Bamberger acted, he did so in response to—and inspired by—Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s urging to remove the protesters.”
Heimbach is head of the Traditionalist Youth Network (TYN) and the Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), white nationalist organizations that advocate for racially segregated "ethno states" and push for race-conscious candidates in local and regional political races, while concealing their ideology in claims of "traditionalism."
Neither Heimbach nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment.