It’s become a familiar pattern at Donald Trump rallies: a protester or several interrupt the Republican frontrunner, angry Trump supporters physically and verbally attack, and the offenders are escorted out by security officers.
Tuesday’s rowdy rally in North Augusta, South Carolina brought a twist to the formula. After Trump supporters ripped away a handmade sign denouncing Trump’s stance on immigration from young protester Thomas Hill, Trump honored the men by inviting them on stage.
“I saw fists start to fly,” Trump said, referring to the protester as a “rough cookie.”
He then praised the supporters who physically confronted him, saying, “I love people with courage.”
After the protester was escorted out by security, flipping his middle fingers to the crowd as he left, Trump asked those who “took action” against him to join him on stage. After hugging the men and praising them, Trump gave them the microphone.
“Do not let them intimidate you,” the first supporter told the roaring crowd, referring to the lone protester. “They will say anything, they will do anything to keep in power. We don’t need who is in there now. We need to get some fresh bunch up there, some fresh blood.”
The second, an Richmond County police officer and Iraq War veteran, added: “If it wasn’t for Mr. Trump right here, I don’t think any of us would have the voice that we have. This is the only man who is really going to bring America back.”
Though in recent weeks the Trump has played a recorded warning at his rallies telling supporters not to “touch or harm” protesters, the candidate has previously praised those who have acted violently. In November, Trump told Fox News that a Black Lives Matter protester in Alabama who was choked and kicked by his fans got what was coming to him. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” he said. “It was disgusting what he was doing.”
In August, after two men inspired by Trump’s rhetoric beat and urinated on a homeless Latino man, Trump told reporters that his supporters tend to be “passionate” and said, “They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”