A Portland activist who had traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest the Republican convention says he was punched in the head by one of President Donald Trump’s most ardent evangelical Christian allies. Video of the attack appears to support his claim.
On Thursday, pro-Trump writer and talk radio host Eric Metaxas was among the roughly 1,500 attendees at Trump’s Republican National Convention speech on the White House lawn. Afterwards, Metaxas left the White House grounds with a crowd of people, entering streets where protesters had been staging demonstrations throughout the night.
Footage of that moment shows anti-Trump protester Anthony Harrington biking past a group of Trump supporters, yelling “Fuck Trump, fuck you!” As Harrington passed by, a man Harrington identified to The Daily Beast as Metaxas punched him in the side or back of the head.
The assailant, whose clothing matches what Metaxas wore that night, is then shown rapidly running backwards through the street, as a law enforcement officer pulls Harrington away.
Metaxas did not return requests for comment. But even his allies believe he threw the punch, supporting Metaxas by name while defending his action on grounds that Harrington “had it coming.”
“Sometimes you have to use violence to preserve order,” Christian writer and Metaxas' friend Rod Dreher wrote in a blog post.
The incident came during a night of heightened tension, in which several Trump backers, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), were surrounded and heckled by crowds; and where, on occasion, scuffling ensued. It also comes amid increasing violence at political protests across the country. Last week, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was charged with two homicide counts after allegedly shooting protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Pro-Trump media personalities have rationalized that shooting on two grounds: that it was an act of self-defense (which authorities have not said) and that Rittenhouse had been righteously compelled to show up at Kenosha because of the chaos and disorder of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in that city.
On Saturday, a caravan of pro-Trump supporters decided to drive into Portland, Oregon, a city that has become an epicenter of police protests and, subsequently, the president’s ire. Members of the caravan shot paintballs and pepper-spray at anti-Trump protesters, according to video of the confrontations. And that night, a man identified by fellow activists as a “friend” of the far-right group Patriot Prayer was fatally shot. (The police have so far declined to identify the victim, nor formally name a suspect in the shooting. The Oregonian, however, said that a 48-year-old anti-facist activist, accused of bringing a gun to an earlier protest, was under investigation.)
The video of Metaxas’ alleged assault has provoked heated discussion in both pro- and anti-Trump Christian circles online—not just because it adds another layer of complexity over who is to blame for the escalating confrontations but because of who he is. Metaxas, who published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in January titled “The Christian Case for Trump,” has become one of the most outspoken advocates calling for Christians to back Trump. He is also the author of pro-Trump children’s book Donald Drains the Swamp.
In addition to Harrington’s allegations and Dreher’s defense, there are several pieces of evidence that suggest Metaxas is the person in the video.
During the incident, a woman can be heard yelling “Eric” several times. The man shown punching Harrington in the video is wearing glasses, a double-breasted navy blazer, a pink shirt, and white pants—the same outfit Metaxas wore to Trump’s convention speech at the White House, according to one of Metaxas’ own Instagram posts. A woman walking next to Harrington’s attackers is wearing a yellow-and-blue dress that looks identical to the dress Metaxas’ wife wore to Trump’s speech.
In a series of Instagram direct messages, Harrington said he had not made any threatening moves towards Metaxas. According to the video, Harrington was biking far enough from the man identified as Metaxas that the alleged assailant had to step out of his way to punch Harrington.
The Daily Beast could not locate any other footage of the incident.
Metaxas has not been charged with any crimes, according to a search of Washington court records. Harrington said that he was himself briefly handcuffed by a law enforcement officer after he was attacked, until someone with video of the incident showed it to police. Harrington told The Daily Beast he is considering a civil suit, but doesn’t plan to press criminal charges, saying it’s “not my style.”