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Donald Trump supporter is charged after videos show him punching protester at rally

Donald Trump has said he'd like to "punch" protesters who flock to his rallies, and one of his supporters apparently took it upon himself to act.

Videos being circulated on social media Thursday showed a white man punching a black protester at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Wednesday.

According to the Cumberland County, N.C., sheriff's department, the suspect, John McGraw, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct in the assault on Rakeem Jones as Jones exited the rally. McGraw was scheduled to appear in court next month.

Sheriff's deputies detained Jones after he was punched. Jones was not charged with any crime and was only escorted out of the arena, said Sean Swain, a spokesman for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Phone calls to McGraw and Jones were not immediately returned. However, McGraw told "Inside Edition" on Thursday that Jones deserved to be punched.

"Next time we see him, we might have to kill him," he warned. 

Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, said she was "distraught and appalled" by the report.

"You don't make America great by, you know, dumping on everything that made America great, like freedom of speech and assembly and … the right of people to protest," Clinton told MSNBC, referring to Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan.

The incident comes as Trump's campaign is dealing with assault allegations closer to home — campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of grabbing a reporter from the conservative news online outlet Breitbart this week.

The reporter, Michelle Fields, was attempting to ask Trump a question as he exited a news conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., when, she said, someone forcibly pushed her out the way, nearly causing her to fall to the ground.

Fields said she didn't see who grabbed her, but a reporter from the Washington Post identified Lewandowski as having yanked Fields out of the way.

Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, denied the allegation.

"There are often large crowds aggressively seeking access to Mr. Trump and our staff would never do anything to harm another individual," Hicks said in a statement.

Fields posted images on Twitter of bruises on her arm. "Campaign managers aren't supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground," she wrote for Breitbart.

Local sheriff's office and police officials said no report had been filed on the complaint as of Thursday afternoon.

Trump's campaign and its security have had repeated physical run-ins with members of the media and protesters.

In February, a Secret Service agent at a Trump rally in Virginia grabbed a Time magazine photographer by the throat and slammed him to the ground.

And at rallies from Nevada to Alabama, protesters and Trump supporters have scuffled, sometimes leading to violent altercations.

kurtis.lee@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 11, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Trump rally videos show assault" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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