Donald Trump has been rushed off stage by secret service agents in dramatic scenes at a US election rally in Nevada. However there was no credible threat and a protestor merely held up a “Republicans Against Trump” sign.
Footage from the Reno rally shows two agents using their bodies to shield the Republican presidential candidate as they ran him from the podium.
Mr Trump was midway through a campaign speech.
The scenes were sparked by an inaccurate cry of, “he’s got a gun” from a person in the crowd.
In a statement released after the incident, the secret service confirmed the man was unarmed.
A weapon was not found at the scene.
To be fair, someone held up a sign which is basically the same thing as attempted murder. https://t.co/0OrxUAPojd
— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) November 6, 2016
“Mr Trump was removed from the stage by his Secret Service protective detail after a commotion occurred in the crowd, immediately in front of the stage and an unidentified individual shouted, ‘gun’,” the statement read.
We note this is not the same as saying the protestor shouted ‘gun’. Trump’s campaign was criticized for suggesting that there had in fact been some kind of assassination attempt after a simple protest sign was raised.
“Secret Service agents and Reno Police Officers immediately apprehended the subject. Upon a thorough search of the subject and the surrounding area, no weapon was found.”
Reporters at the event tweeted there had been a large commotion near the stage just before security acted.
The Guardian’s US West Coast Bureau Chief Paul Lewis, who attended the rally, identified the arrested man as Republican Party member Austyn Crites, 33.
Mr Lewis said on Twitter that he had spoken to Mr Crites in the wake of his dramatic arrest.
He said the 33-year-old was holding a sign that read, “Republicans Against Trump”.
Fitting that what Trump spun as a physical threat to him was actually his followers kicking hell out of a protestor. https://t.co/ZPMsAIJVHM
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) November 6, 2016
“He says he’s a Republican. He said he was terrified by how the crowd responded: ‘I was in survival mode. I knew I could die at that moment,’” Mr Lewis reported in a tweet.
He went on: “His name is Austyn Crites. He’s 33 and works on high altitude balloons. He’s voting for some Republicans this year — just not Trump.
“Austin told me he was punched, kicked. Someone grabbed his testicles and he his neck was in a chokehold. He said he feared for his life.”
Trump protestor Austyn Crites: "I was just holding up a sign…these people were kicking, twisting, trying to choke….I knew I could die."
— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) November 6, 2016
Mr Trump returned to continue his speech minutes after the incident.
He thanked his protective agents upon his return to the stage, saying: “I want to thank the secret service, they don’t get enough credit. They are amazing people.”
This is the man who was ejected from the rally, sparking panic. He was holding a sign: "Republicans Against Trump" pic.twitter.com/bZ2JAZ2w88
— Paul Lewis (@PaulLewis) November 6, 2016
— Victoria Hansen (@VHansenABCNews4) November 6, 2016
US media reported journalists at the scene said one or more people rushed the stage before security moved.
Reporters were then moved back.
The incident happened shortly after 9pm local time.
Video footage of the event shows Trump halting his speech to peer at length into the crowd, immediately before the two agents rushed him behind a curtain.
When he returned to the stage, he said: “Nobody said it was going to be easy for us, but we will never be stopped.”
Trump neither admitted he was never under threat nor upbraided his crowd for beating up a fellow Republican with a sign.
In a statement released after the rally, Mr Trump again thanked his security personnel, as though he had been in actual danger.
“I would like to thank the United States Secret Service and the law enforcement resources in Reno and the state of Nevada for their fast and professional response,” he said.
Trump was also criticized for his comments yesterday about President Obama’s response to a pro-Trump protestor at a Clinton rally, saying Obama “screamed at him”.
That may not have been an accurate assessment. President Obama asked the crowd to leave the protestor alone to make his point. The exchange was captured on video. President Obama called for respect for the Trump protestor’s age, possible military service and right to make his point.
— Adam Khan (@Khanoisseur) November 5, 2016
This article was originally published on news.com.au and an updated version has been edited by Heat Street staff.