The Black Lives Matter activist who was kicked, punched, shoved, and tackled by an all-white crowd of Trump supporters has finally spoken out about what happened – and he didn’t hold back.
Speaking with ThinkProgress, activist Mercutio Southall Jr. said at one point the beating got so bad that he believed he might die in the room. And lest people think he is overstating things, video taken by CNN reporter Jeremy Diamond confirms the brutality of the assault and the precarious nature of a lone man being surrounded by a hostile mob being egged on by Donald Trump himself. Things could have easily gotten worse.
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) November 21, 2015
Southall says it was only thoughts of his family and his own resolve not to let Trump supporters continue to attack him that kept him going.
“I can’t die today,” he recounted to ThinkProgress. “I’ve got shit to do. I have little kids. Fuck these people.”
Not-so-coincidentally, Southall’s assault happened in Birmingham, Alabama, a city bursting at the seams with Civil Rights history. In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. organized the Birmingham campaign, the largest civil rights protest in American history up until that time. He would later write his now famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” from this very city. Southall has personal history with the civil rights movement, too. He says his family marched for voting rights in Birmingham a generation ago. He views his current protests as an extensive of that effort.
His experience at Trump’s rally, and its aftermath, reveal things might not have changed as we would like to think. After all, here was clear evidence of a mob assaulting a peaceful protester and Birmingham police have looked the other way. In fact, channeling a bygone era, police said they wouldn’t pursue charges against anyone in the crowd because Southall was a known “agitator.” ]
“I would be a little cautious with Mercutio Southall. He has been an agitator from day one. Mercutio is always the agitator.”
Trump has also expressed zero remorse. Despite his campaign quickly claiming they didn’t endorse the actions of his supporters, the Republican presidential candidate spent the next day telling reporters that he felt Southall deserved what he got because of his “disgusting” protest. And Trump hasn’t shied away from threatening violence for people who oppose him. At a previous rally, Trump had claimed that he would fight any Black Lives Matter protester who tried to interrupt one of his speeches.
“That will never happen with me. I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself or other people will, but that was a disgrace. I felt badly for [Bernie Sanders]. But it showed that he’s weak.”
Southall’s recollection of the assault is harrowing. He noted how quickly the mob went on the offensive when they saw that his friend, another African-American man, had become live-streaming the event from his phone. They then began to get violent.
“It was just a sea of white faces,” he told ThinkProgress. “A lady kicked me in the stomach. A man kicked me in the chest. They called me n*****, monkey, and they shouted ‘all lives matter’ while they were kicking and punching me. So for all the people who are still confused at this point, they proved what ‘all lives matter’ meant. It means, ‘Shut up, n*****.’”
The video does indeed feature attendees chanting “All Lives Matter” repeatedly as the attack took place. One man distinctly yells “Go home.” Another one – A Mr. Donald Trump – shouts “Get him the hell out of here!” His voice booming into the microphone. It’s a shocking, ugly scene.
In stark contrast to Trump’s defiance in the face of legitimate concerns about his racial politics, Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both made inroads with Black Lives Matter activists by doing something Trump has apparently never even considered: They listened to them. After protests, Clinton, and particularly Sanders, have spent a lot of time meeting with leaders of the movement and allowing their voices to be heard. The positive response, and good faith effort to understand their grievances, has made all the difference.
For Trump, the only solution appears to be more calls to violence. Given the nature of his xenophobic campaign, things are likely to get much worse as the campaign season wears on.
Feature image via CNN