The Cumberland County Sheriff’s office is considering filing charges of inciting a riot against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump for the Fayetteville, North Carolina rally according to an NBC reporter and local media sources. The rally was the site where Trump supporter John Franklin McGraw was arrested for sucker-punching a black protester and threatening to kill him.
“We are looking at the totality of these circumstances, including any additional charges against Mr. McGraw, including the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot,” Sheriff’s Office lawyer Ronnie Mitchell told The Fayetteville Observer.
This story has been updated. Please see below.
At the rally, Trump asked the audience “Can’t we have a little more action than this?” when protesters were causing a disturbance. “See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen, because they used to treat them very rough,” he said. “We’ve become very weak.”
That isn’t the first time. At an October 23 rally in Miami, Trump explained, “See the first group, I was nice. Oh, take your time. The second group, I was pretty nice,” he said. “The third group, I’ll be a little more violent. And the fourth group, I’ll say get the hell out of here!”
A month later it was more of the same: “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said. “I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble.”
In December, a warning came over the loudspeaker at a Trump rally asking the attendees not to harm protesters. But when the same recording was played at a rally in February, a reporter tweeted that the audience laughed at the idea.
Less than a month ago at a rally in Nevada, Trump said about a protester, “I’d like to punch him in the face, I tell ya.” Trump said from the podium that he would pay for legal fees of people who acted out against the protesters, and he later reiterated the sentiment by saying that he would look into paying the legal fees for McGraw.
The Latino advocacy group Presente set up a petition asking for Trump to be arrested for inciting a riot at ArrestTrump.org.
Update, 7:07 p.m. EST: The Washington Post reported that charges were unlikely to be filed against Trump.
“It doesn’t appear that we have sufficient evidence to warrant charging him at this time,” said the sheriff’s department’s lead attorney, Ronnie Mitchell.