This comes as the latest of Trump’s incendiary remarks toward minority groups. Photo / Getty
Donald Trump on Sunday defended erroneous claims he made about U.S.
Muslims cheering the 9/11 attacks and said a black protester at a
weekend rally here was “so obnoxious and loud” that “maybe he should
have been roughed up” by white audience members.
rally marks the latest example of Trump’s refusal to back down amid
outcries over his often-incendiary racial and religious rhetoric – and
comes as polls show him once again with a clear lead over the rest of
the candidates seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
racially charged altercation occurred in Birmingham, famous in the
1960s as a center of the civil rights struggle. The thousands who
attended Trump’s rally were nearly all white in a city with a black
Mercutio Southall Jr. – a well-known local activist who
has been repeatedly arrested while protesting what he says is unfair
treatment of blacks – interrupted Trump’s rally and could be heard
shouting, “Black lives matter!” A fight broke out, prompting Trump to
briefly halt his remarks and demand the removal of Southall.
“Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Trump said Saturday morning. “Get him out of here. Throw him out!”
one point, Southall fell to the ground and was surrounded by several
white men who appeared to be kicking and punching him, according to
video captured by CNN. A Washington Post reporter in the crowd witnessed
one of the men put his hands on Southall’s neck and heard a female
onlooker repeatedly shout, “Don’t choke him!”
officers got Southall on his feet and led him out of the building, he
was repeatedly pushed and shoved by people in the crowd. The crowd
alternated between booing and cheering. There were chants of, “All lives
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was
absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said on the Fox News
Channel on Sunday morning. “I have a lot of fans, and they were not
happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a troublemaker
who was looking to make trouble.”
That was a change in tone from
just a month ago, when Trump would regularly tell his audiences not to
harm the protesters who often infiltrate his rallies.
’em,” Trump said at a rally in Miami on Oct. 23 as pro-immigration
activists were led out. “You can get ’em out, but don’t hurt ’em.”
at the Birmingham rally, Trump claimed he watched as “thousands and
thousands of people” in Jersey City, New Jersey, cheered the fall of the
World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, giving the impression that he was
talking about Muslims living in the United States being happy that so
many Americans died in the attacks. Officials have repeatedly debunked
these persistent Internet rumors – most commonly attached to Paterson,
N.J., rather than Jersey City – and there is no news coverage or other
evidence corroborating them.
But Trump stood by his comments
during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, saying that the
cheers came from the “large Arab populations” in New Jersey.
“It did happen. I saw it,” Trump said. “It was on television. I saw it.”
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said on Twitter that Trump “has memory
issues or willfully distorts the truth, either of which should be
concerning for the Republican Party.” In a statement, the
Anti-Defamation League called Trump’s claims “irresponsible” and
Jerry Speziale, the Paterson police
commissioner, told The Post’s Fact Checker: “That is totally false. That
is patently false. That never happened. There were no flags burning, no
one was dancing.”
Trump, who led the field at 32 percent in a
Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday, has long made provocative
statements a hallmark of his campaign. Critics and rivals have said
that Trump is stoking racial tension. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush
said Trump’s comments about Islam are “manipulating people’s angst and
After the Birmingham altercation, Southall told the
AL.com news site that the commotion started as he began recording
himself and other protesters at the rally and saying that he wanted
“Donald Trump to know he’s not welcome here.” Southall said someone
knocked the phone out of his hand and made a racial slur. Then there was
pushing, Southall told the news site, and punches started flying.
swarm of security officers quickly made its way through the crowd of
several thousand, got Southall off the ground and walked him out of the
building. Trump has had Secret Service protection since Nov. 11, and
those who attend his rallies and political events must now walk through
metal detectors and have their bags searched.
As Southall was
removed on Saturday, Trump recounted how Bernie Sanders, candidate for
the Democratic presidential nomination, responded to “Black Lives
Matter” activists who came onstage during an event earlier this year.
see, he was politically correct,” Trump said. “Two young women came up
to the podium. They took over his microphone. I promise you, that’s not
going to happen with me. I promise you. Never going to happen. Not going
to happen. Can’t let that stuff happen.”
Before the fight broke
out, Trump had warned the audience that Islamic State fighters might
recruit their children online and called for an impenetrable wall along
the southern border, prompting the crowd to chant: “Build a wall! Build a
wall! Build a wall!” In his nearly hour-long speech, Trump listed
graphic details of killings committed by people who had entered the
country illegally, promised to bar Syrian refugees from living in the
United States because they might be terrorists and called for heavy
surveillance of “certain mosques.”
From the media area, reporters
strained to see what was happening. CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond managed
to make a video of the incident before Trump staffers forced him back
into the media pen. As the video circulated on social media that night,
some of Trump’s supporters took to Twitter to call the protesters
“thugs,” “Dem plants” and a variety of obscene names. Several wrote that
the protesters opened themselves up to the possibility of violence by
attending the rally.
Trump grew agitated as reporters shifted their focus to the protesters.
at those bloodsuckers back there,” Trump said. “They’re turned around,
and they’re following the people, right? Because you have a small group
of people that made some noise and are being thrown out on their ass.
The crowd roared with cheers.