A pro-Donald Trump biker gang’s physical handling of protesters at a weekend rally could add to the president’s legal woes, with one attendee considering a fresh lawsuit as protesters already suing over violence at rallies last year plan to cite the recent events as proof of an ongoing pattern.Members of a group called Bikers for Trump accosted multiple people at a Saturday night rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sometimes using their bodies to push or physically detain them until police arrived, after Trump yelled “get him out of here” at one protester waving a Russian flag.
The skirmishes underscored the unique challenges surrounding a president who continues holding campaign-style rallies nearly six months after his election, eliciting equally charged fervor among his supporters and critics — and who hasn’t disavowed the violence that characterized much of his campaign.
The scene at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center on Saturday in some ways recalled a series of tense rallies during the bitter GOP primary at which Trump supporters repeatedly clashed with protesters, occasionally with Trump’s encouragement, including at a February 2016 rally where the then-candidate suggested his fans should “knock the crap out of ‘em” and then offered to pay any resulting legal fees.
“When he sees that the crowd is riled up and he says these types of things, he’s sending a message to his supporters,” said Richard A. Rice, a lawyer representing two protesters who are suing the Trump campaign, including an African-American man who alleges he was punched, kicked and called racial slurs by Trump supporters at a November 2015 Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama. During that encounter, Trump similarly yelled “get him the hell out of here!”
Rice said the message directed at his client and the protester in Harrisburg on Saturday was the same: “He wants to use violence as a tool to suppress political dissent.”
The lawsuit from Rice’s clients, which is awaiting a judge’s ruling on motions to dismiss by the Trump campaign and the convention center that hosted the rally, is one of two moving through the federal courts accusing Trump of inciting violence by his supporters against protesters. “If we get past this motion-to-dismiss stage, I would certainly cite (the incidents at the Harrisburg rally) to show that it’s an ongoing pattern,” said Rice.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did the Trump reelection campaign, which hosted the Harrisburg rally.