Donald Trump isn’t going to put a stop to his violent supporters. In fact, he wants to see more.
In a press conference Friday morning in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump defended attendees at his events who go after anyone who seems different. He claimed that the protesters are the ones who are violent, and they deserve to be taken out.
“It was a guy who was swinging — was very loud — and then started swinging at the audience. And you know what? It swung back,” Trump said.
“And I thought it was very, very appropriate,” he added. “He was swinging. He was hitting people. And the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of. Now, I’m not talking about just a protestor. This was a guy who should not have been allowed to do what he did. And frankly, if you want to know the truth, the police were very, very restrained.”
It’s not exactly clear which violent incident Trump was referring to, as there have already been so many. But a video surfaced Thursday of a Trump supporter sucker-punching an African-American man, Rakeem Jones, who was being escorted out of a rally by police. The cops then piled upon Jones.
WRAL reported that the 78-year-old who punched Jones, John McGraw, was charged with assault and battery on Thursday. He was unrepentant in an interview with “Inside Edition,” saying he “liked … knocking the hell out of that big mouth.”
He said he punched Jones because he could have been an ISIS terrorist and he wasn’t “acting like an American.”
“The next time we see him, we might have to kill him,” McGraw added.
Violent rally attendees are taking their cues from Trump himself.
“There may be somebody with tomatoes in the audience,” Trump warned people at a rally in Iowa last month. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees.”
CNN host Jake Tapper questioned Trump about inciting violence during Thursday night’s debate in Miami.
“We have some protestors who are bad dudes,” Trump said. “They had done bad things. They are swinging. They are really dangerous. We had a couple big strong powerful guys, doing damage to people. And if they’re going to be taken out, I’ll be honest. We have to run something.”
The “bad dudes” have included Tahjila Davis, a 19-year-old student from Valdosta State University who was ejected from a Georgia rally with other black students. Davis told USA Today that they were planning to simply sit in silent protest.
In November, video showed a gang of men kicking and punching a Black Lives Matter activist at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama.
Journalists have literally come under attack as well. A Secret Service agentgrabbed the neck of a photographer and threw him down when he stepped out of the press area to get a better shot.
And on Tuesday, someone connected to Trump’s campaign, grabbed Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields by the arm to get her out of the way, nearly knocking her to the ground. Fields tweeted a photo of her bruises, and Politico posted audio of the incident. A Washington Post reporter wrote that he witnessed the altercation, and identified the assailant as Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski. (Breitbart News has since said it is not sure if it was Lewandowski, although Fields has filed a police report against him.)
Trump and his campaign, however, still maintain that nothing happened.