If Steve from Virginia, as authorities have identified him, wanted to get Donald Trump’s attention, he almost certainly succeeded.
On Wednesday afternoon, the long-haired man wearing white baseball cap and a black backpack began his ascent on Trump Tower on 56th Street in Manhattan. Within a couple of hours, his stunt was the top trending topic on Twitter and the top news story on cable news. But while many probably assumed he was an anti-Trump protester, in a video posted on YouTube the day before the man in question claimed to be a Trump supporter.
The video, titled “Message to Mr. Trump (why I climbed your tower)” has not yet been independently verified, but according to CNN’s police sources, they believe it was made by the climber. Wearing an all-black Under Armour hoodie and looking to the left of the camera, the man describes himself as an “independent researcher” seeking a “private audience” with the Republican presidential candidate to “discuss a private matter.”
“I guarantee that it is in your interest to honor this request,” he continues, adding one of Trump’s preferred expressions, “Believe me, if my purpose was not significant, I would not risk my life pursuing it.” He says he decided to climb the tower to get Trump’s attention and asked viewers to make it go viral so the candidate would see it.
“Please make sure to go out and vote for Mr. Trump in the 2016 election,” he concludes before ending the one-minute video.
Trump Tower is not only the headquarters of Trump’s campaign and business operations but also the home of his family. Steve intended to scale all 58 stories, but as he approached the 21st floor, police had removed a large window and were using a rope and hook to try to pull him into the building and presumably arrest him for trespassing and reckless endangerment. Authorities also placed large crash pads on the street below in case he fell in the process.
Just after 6:30 p.m. ET, police succeeded in grabbing the man and pulling him into the open window. At that point, he had been climbing for approximately three hours. Applause could be heard from the crowd below as the spectacle came to a safe conclusion. Thirty minutes later, he was removed from the building on a stretcher.
In a press conference held outside of the building, authorities said that the 20-year-old man had been taken to Bellevue Hospital for a psychological evalution, after which he would be placed under arrest for charges yet to be determined in conjunction with the District Attorney's office. They also confirmed that he echoed to them the sentiments expressed in the YouTube manifesto about wanting to get Trump's attention and ultimately a meeting with the candidate.
Speaking on behalf of the Trump Organization, Executive VP Michael Cohen told the New York Post, “This man performed a ridiculous and dangerous stunt. There’s damage to the building and he caused the unnecessary deployment of New York’s finest to protect his safety and the safety of everyone in the building.” He added, “If Mr. Trump were here he’d be thanking law enforcement for the job they’re doing.”
But Trump may also owe Steve some gratitude. For at least a few hours Wednesday afternoon, he did a great job of distracting the media from Trump’s comments about “Second Amendment people” finding a way to stop Hillary Clinton.