On Saturday evening, Donald Trump was rushed off the stage during a rally in Reno, Nevada. Secret Service agents escorted the Republican nominee to safety following a commotion involving a man with an anti-Trump sign. Then shouts of “Gun!” alerted the Secret Service to additonial danger. Following the event, a man named Austyn Crites took credit for the commotion.
“I just wanted to show a sign, so I had a sign that said ‘Republicans against Trump,'” Crites told The Guardian‘s Paul Lewis. He recalled people shouting “Gun!” but he had no gun. Then the crowd physically attacked him. “There was people wrenching on my neck so hard that they could have strangled me to death. Other people were grabbing at my balls, people were — you know — kicking me, it was just absolutely nuts.”
Crites insisted that he is a Republican who cannot stomach Trump, and he explained why. “Because he’s fascist, you know, he’s a dictator,” the protester said. “And these type of people, they take good people and they turn them into animals. And that’s exactly what happened to me.”
Some people insisted that Crites was a Democrat plant. Indeed, last month, Project Veritas released a video showing Democrat operatives plotting to incite violence at Trump rallies through the organization Democracy Partners. Since activists have indeed been sent to Trump rallies to incite violence, it seemed likely to those who thought Crites had a gun that the protester was a plant.
Looks like a Hillary supporter to me. pic.twitter.com/YzURBsrxEz
— Steve Trumpolov🇷🇺 (@WFChamps) November 6, 2016
The problem is, no gun was discovered at the scene. Along with that inconvenient fact, Crites insisted that he was indeed a Republican. As BBC reporter James Cook reported, the protester said that while he will indeed vote for Hillary Clinton, he would be supporting Republican candidates down-ballot.
Yes. As I reported. He says he’s voting for Clinton but supports Republicans down ticket. Says his problem is Trump. Not GOP. https://t.co/Qs31GPD0ri
— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) November 6, 2016
Cook also shared video of Crites being escorted out of the rally, with Trump supporters shouting “Boo!” and some yelling “F**k you!”
Video of a man being escorted from the Donald Trump rally here in Reno just after the candidate was rushed off stage. pic.twitter.com/FGarWFRAG5
— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) November 6, 2016
While some viewed Crites as a Democrat plant, others hailed him as a hero. Maryland man Joe Plenzler started a GoFundMe page to buy Crites beer. “Trump supporters kicked, punched, and choked him in a violent frenzy. They even grabbed his testicles,” Plenzler wrote. “A few of us veterans (and fellow citizens) started a GFM on 11/6 to buy him a beer for exercising his 1st Amendment rights that we served to protect, and raised $100.”
Plenzler reported that Austyn kept $6 for beer and gave $94 to the Semper Fi Fund to help injured veterans and their families.
Next Page: Crites was “happy” when the police came.
The way Crites described it, he was “happy” when the police came. He recalled holding his sign up in the air.
There are people booing. That’s expected, right? And then all of a sudden these people next to me are just starting to get violent, they’re grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand…
I didn’t see exactly what happened — looked like [Trump] was kinda pointing at me, almost like he was instigating something. People started going crazy. These people couldn’t grab the sign, they start tackling me, and then it just piled on, and someone yelled something about a gun. But I was yelling down there, “there was no gun, I only have a sign, I only have a sign!” But there was people wrenching on my neck so hard that they could have strangled me to death. Other people were grabbing at my balls, people were you know kicking me, it was just absolutely nuts.
Um, finally the police came, and I was very happy that they came.
One Trump supporter described the situation rather differently. [This testimony was published on Reddit and posted on Twitter, but cannot be verified from other outlets. Nevertheless, it was posted with a video of the event in question and seems authentic.]
I’m a bit shaken still, but I wanted to get this out there: the guy had a REPUBLICANS AGAINST TRUMP sign. He started shoving his way towards the front of the crowd. I was 3 people back from the front row and about 6 feet from this guy. He started to jump up and down and almost acting like a mosh pit.
He was pushing and shoving people. He knocked people over, including elderly. Children were right there, too. You see trump shade his eyes twice as he watches what is happening and doesn’t acknowledge it until the guy gets so violent that some men tackle him.
This is when Trump made the comment about him being paid and to get him out. Many people fell over in the process. About 6 or more men restrained him, and in the process, one of those men got up and yelled that he had a gun. It took about 5 or 6 shouts before secret service heard and reacted.
Crites may indeed have pushed his way to the front to get his message out. This would have been interpreted as violence by Trump supporters, and it seems likely they overreacted. Whether or not members of the crowd reached for Crites’ gonads, it is hard to say. Angry crowds can do irrational things, and Crites should have known better.
What this man intended as a peaceful protest, a crowd took as a threat, and when someone yells “Gun!” you bet the Secret Service will take it seriously. Should Crites have been treated the way he was? Probably not. But this proves little about the violence of Trump supporters — whenever a crowd is that close together, and a “traitor” appears in the midst, tensions are bound to run high.
Trump did indeed encourage the crowd to “get that man out of here,” and he has said worse things about protesters in the past, but did he “turn good people into animals”? No, the madness of crowds and the madness of political passion did that.
Check out the video of Crites’ testimony on the next page.