During the final presidential debate on Wednesday night, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of paying protesters to start fights at his rallies. But Trump is the only candidate facing a lawsuit for inciting violence on the campaign trail.
Two activists have filed suit against Trump, after they were beaten by a crowd at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama last November. Mercutio Southall was beaten on camera, while fellow activist Carlos Chaverst was allegedly pushed from the event by a group of attendees who chanted “all lives matter.” Trump encouraged the crowd to “Get him the hell out of here, will you please?”
The plaintiffs, both African American, said the incident was disturbingly reminiscent of the racial violence that plagued their Alabama city during the 1960s civil rights movement.
“It is shocking to see that at a rally at ... a publicly funded facility, black residents were brutally attacked by a white mob,” the suit, filed Monday, reads.
Video from the November event shows Southall chanting “black lives matter” near the back of the convention center. A crowd descends on him, pushing him to the ground, where rally attendees pile on him.
“Southall was then kicked, choked, shoved, punched, scratched and referred to as nearly every racial slur known,” the suit against Trump and the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center claims. “[Southall] pushed the mob back but he was substantially outnumbered.”
Speaking to The Daily Beast in November, Southall’s then-lawyer David Gespass described the incident as a hate crime, saying Southall’s attackers called him a “nigger” and a “monkey.”
Chaverst’s alleged beating was not captured on camera, as he had been using his phone to film the attack on Southall.
“We’re at the Donald Trump rally, here in Birmingham, Alabama, and we want to inform Donald Trump he’s not welcome here. We need to dump the Trump,” Chaverst narrated his video. Upon hearing this, a nearby attendee allegedly slapped the phone from Chaverst’s hand, calling the protester “boy” and other slurs. When Chaverst told the rally attendee not to touch his phone, the man allegedly said he could do whatever he wanted to Chaverst.
Trump’s onstage rhetoric escalated both incidents, the plaintiffs said.
“Meanwhile, Donald F. Trump, Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States of America, is continuously yelling ‘get him the hell out of here’ and making other incendiary statements further inciting the violent melee to continue,” the suit says.
But Trump’s comments in Birmingham were not an isolated incident; the suit lists a sample of the candidate’s responses to protesters at his rallies, including “Knock the crap out of him, would you? Seriously,” and “I’d like to punch them in the face, I tell you,” and “I love the old days. Do you know what they used to do to guys like that in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
The suit also cites Trump’s promise to foot the legal bills of anyone who attacked a protester, claiming the language incites his followers to violence.
The beatdown resulted bruising for Chaverst, while Southall “suffered severe personal injuries including lacerations to his face, head and neck, concussion, bruises to his back and torso areas,” the suit claims.
Southall and Chaverst are seeking $1,000,000 from the convention center and from the Trump campaign, which did not respond to a request for comment.
During Wednesday night’s debate, Trump accused Clinton of paying protesters to incite violence at his rallies.
“I was wondering what happened with my rally in Chicago and other rallies where we had such violence,” Trump said. “She’s the one, and Obama, that caused the violence. They hired people, they paid them $1,500, and they’re on tape saying, be violent, cause fights, do bad things.”
The remarks were in reference to a dubious video by conservative activist James O’Keefe, who released a Monday video claiming to show a Clinton-affiliated organizer discussing violence at Trump rallies. The video, curiously edited, does not address Trump’s claims of paid protesters.
However, Trump’s son Eric, and Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway have both tweeted links to a parody news site, which claimed the Clinton campaign paid protesters $3,500 to demonstrate at Trump rallies.