Billionaire real estate developer and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has come under strong criticism following a violent incident at one of his rallies last weekend. While Trump was addressing a crowd at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, a group of his supporters allegedly punched and kicked an African-American protester wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt. Encouraged by Trump? Some observers accused Trump of encouraging the violence.
At the same time as the protester was being assaulted, Trump was heard to shout, “Get him the hell out of here!” As the assault was underway, the nearly all white crowd appeared to cheer with approval. Jeremy Diamond, a reporter for CNN, captured part of the incident on video. The video shows that at one point a woman attempted to kick the protester in the head before being restrained by bystanders. Others in the crowd who also did not actually assault the protester appeared ready to do so before security intervened and led the protester to safety before more violence could occur. Previous Inflammatory Comments In interviews, Trump has publicly stated that he is no admirer of the Black Lives Matter movement and has threatened to take unspecified action against any members of the group who try to disrupt his rallies.
Trump has denounced as “weak” other presidential candidates such as Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders who have allowed Black Lives Matter protesters to interrupt their rallies. Vowing “that will never happen to me” Trump has said, “I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself or other people will.” Not the First Incident The assault in Birmingham was not the first violent incident related to the Trump campaign. At a rally earlier this year, Trump supporters chanting “USA” attacked a Latino protester. An assault on a homeless Hispanic in Boston this summer was also linked to Trump supporters.
Critics of Trump claim that his campaign rhetoric, which is frequently critical of illegal immigrants and openly mocks the protesters who show up at his events, encourages violent behavior by his supporters. Trump himself insists that his campaign “in no way condones” acts of violence at his campaign events. However, critics complain that he actually appears to do very little to restrain his supporters whenever violence does occur.