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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man, 78, Charged in N.C. Trump Rally Assault

(CN) - A 78-year-old man has been charged with assaulting a protester at a Wednesday rally in Fayetteville for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

John McGraw, of Linden, N.C., has been charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday morning.

A video of the incident posted on YouTube and circulated through a number of Social Media platforms, shows McGraw steadily approaching an aisle through a row of seats as Rakeem Jones and several others are being escorted out of the Crown Coliseum, the site of the rally, by what appear to be sheriff's deputies.

Jones raises his hands in response to hecklers, and it is at this point, McGraw, who is wearing a cowboy hat over gray hair tied back in a pony-tail, throws a right-handed punch at the protestor's face, momentarily knocking him off balance.

At this point, the deputies hustle Jones to the top of the stairs and wrestle him to the ground as one of the officers can be heard asking if he has a gun. All the while, McGraw is seen standing calmly at the spot where he threw the punch, as at least two more deputies pass him by.

Ronnie Rouse, one of the protestors, told the Associated Press that he and four friends attended the Trump rally as a "social experiment" and not to protest, but to "spectate" and people-watch.

After Trump came out and walked to the microphone, however, Rouse said one of his group, a friend he names only as "Melanie," made a face and said loudly, "I can't stand this guy."

At this point, Rouse said, an attendee sitting directly next to the woman told her, "You need to get the f *** out of here, B****." At which point a brief argument ensued and deputies immediately intervened.

"They told us, 'You have to get out,'" Rouse said.

"We said, "Really?"

"We thought they were going to throw the other guy out," Rouse said. "Then, as we were leaving, this guy comes all the way across his row and punches [Jones] in the face, in front of two police officers.

Rouse said as several officers wrestled Jones to the ground, others told McGraw to go back to his seat.

"I was just surprised," Rouse told the Associated Press. "I wasn't surprised by the hate. I was surprised by the level of the hate."

In a written statement, Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said, "No one should be subjected to such a cowardly, unprovoked act as that committed by McGraw."

"Regardless of political affiliation, speech, race, national origin, color, gender, bad reputation, prior acts, or political demonstration, no other citizen has the right to assault another person or to act in such a way as this defendant did," the sheriff continued. "I hope that the courts will handle this matter with the appropriate severity for McGraw's severe and gross violation of this victim's rights."

After his arrest, McGraw appeared before a county magistrate, who released him on $2,500 bond.

He is next scheduled to appear in court on April 6.

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