Mercutio Southall Jr.–a well-known local activist who has been repeatedly arrested while fighting what he says is unfair treatment of blacks–interrupted Trump’s rally and could be heard shouting, “Black lives matter!” A fight broke out, prompting Trump to briefly halt his remarks and demand the removal of Southall.
“Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?” Trump said on Saturday morning. “Get him out of here. Throw him out!”
At one point, Southall fell to the ground and was surrounded by several white men who appeared to be kicking and punching him, according to video captured by CNN. A Washington Post reporter in the crowd watched as one of the men put his hands on Southall’s neck and heard a female onlooker repeatedly shout: “Don’t choke him!”
As security officers got Southall on his feet and led him out of the building, he was repeatedly pushed and shoved by people in the crowd. The crowd alternated between booing and cheering. There were chants of “All lives matter!”
“Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing,” Trump said on the Fox News Channel on Sunday morning. “I have a lot of fans, and they were not happy about it. And this was a very obnoxious guy who was a trouble-maker who was looking to make trouble.”
Southall told the AL.com news site that the commotion started as he began recording himself and other protesters at the rally and saying that he wanted “Donald Trump to know he’s not welcome here.” Southall said someone knocked the phone out of his hand and made a racial slur. Then there was pushing and punches started flying, Southall told the news site.
“He was so obnoxious and so loud, he was screaming,” Trump recounted in the Fox News interview on Sunday. “I had 10,000 people in the room yesterday, 10,000 people, and this guy started screaming by himself.”
Trump also said he watched as “thousands and thousands of people” in New Jersey cheered the fall of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, giving the impression that he was talking about Muslims living in the United States being happy that so many Americans died in the attacks. Officials have repeatedly debunked these rumors. Trump stood by his comments during an interview on ABC News on Sunday, saying that the cheers came from the “large Arab populations” in New Jersey.
“It did happen. I saw it,” Trump said. “It was on television. I saw it.”
[Editor’s Note: Trump has since tweeted a Washington Post article from September 18, 2001, which says “law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”]