Videotaped shoves, punches and scuffling at Trump rallies have attracted world attention. But a count of the actual number of violent incidents and arrests is elusive, because they are inconsistently reported, or don't get reported at all.
A Trump supporter made national news last week after he was videotaped sucker-punching a protester at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. But at that same event, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office there issued three additional citations for interfering with attempts to maintain order and assault on an officer -- none of which were widely reported in the media.
At least 52 people were arrested or cited in connection with Trump events from Feb. 29 to March 14, according to police departments. Thirty-two of these arrests took place at a St. Louis rally on March 11.
Overall, most of the arrests and citations involved charges of non-violent disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, or interfering with a police duties -- accusations generally related to protesting. At most of the 25 Trump events held during the period, at least one person was ejected, according to news reports.
Trump told interviewers this week no one has been hurt at his rallies and claimed he doesn't condone violence. He frequently has taunted protesters and has encouraged followers to harass them. He once goaded fans to "knock the crap" out of tomato-throwing protesters.
His injury-free claim isn't true. News reports and police reports for the period show there were at least 20 incidents of physical violence at Trump rallies, including force used by security officials. The reports include incidents like, "a Trump supporter, was shoved against the metal barricades and began to cry," at a rally in New Orleans, and "police said that they used pepper spray two times," at a rally in Kansas City. (See our spreadsheet of Trump events here.)
In Louisville, Kentucky, four cases filed with police complained about assault or physical harassment. One victim said "she was called the racial slur 'nigger' while she was being pushed, shoved, and hit during the rally," according to police documents.
Reports like these do not routinely arise from events held by other presidential candidates, no matter the political party. But Trump has complained that police are too easy on his protesters.
"There are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences," Trump said at the St. Louis rally.
One of the protesters arrested there was Jade Woods, a 23-year-old African-American college student. She knew she might face antagonism when she unfurled an anti-hate banner. But she wanted to get her message out, so she screamed, "Stop the hate!" She and fellow protesters were dragged apart by police and arrested.
"It was very scary," Woods told The Huffington Post. Officers ripped her from her seat and twisted her arm to the point where she thought it was broken, she said. When she was on the ground, a male officer leaned on her back. She had an asthma attack and was unable to quickly reach her inhaler, video shows.
"Officers used the tactics necessary in order to safely arrest the individuals, many of whom were resisting," a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson said.
As the protesters were taken from the rally, a group of white Trump supporters chanted"U-S-A! U-S-A!"
Megan Ellyia Green, a St. Louis alderwoman arrested at the rally, said the event featured a lot of vulgarity -- a Muslim man handing out donuts was was told to "go play with a camel," for example.
"We shouldn't have been arrested," Green said. "Escorting us out of the building probably would have been enough."
In Chicago, where Trump canceled a rally last week after his campaign cited security concerns, two police officers were injured and taken to hospitals. A 23-year-old man was charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer.
Timothy Bradford, 32, also was arrested, charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting an officer. Bradford, a member of millennial activist organization Black Youth Project 100, told HuffPost that when he and other activists decided to protest Trump across a bridge from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Trump had been scheduled to speak. Bradford said the police became aggressive and an officer struck him as he was trying to ensure the safety of other protesters.
“What came next is what happens when they feel like they need to take organizers who have been organizing out of the equation,” Bradford said. “I was basically jumped by the police.”
Bradford said he doesn’t remember how many cops arrested him, but it was more than three. After he was booked and released, Bradford said he got medical treatment for bruises and a head wound that needed staples.
A police spokesperson said "Bradford will be given his day in court."
"If he wishes to file a complaint against any member of the Chicago Police Department, he may do so," the spokesperson said.
Trump doesn't seem to see any of this as a problem, despite calls from his own party to denounce the violence. He warned on Wednesday there may be riots if he heads into the GOP convention with the most delegates, but not enough to win the nomination, and the party moves to select another candidate. "Bad things would happen," Trump said -- a statement some viewed as a threat.
Green, the St. Louis alderwoman facing charges, said she finds Trump's comments about protesters, particularly his nostalgia for a violent past, troubling. "To me, that was a very ominous statement to say, 'If you protest, you should just be locked up forever, or maybe even killed,'" she said.
"That kind of rhetoric is really dangerous," Green added.
Author: Dana Liebelson, Julia Craven