Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Aftermath of assault at Trump rally in N.C. has a dash of hope for some, dashed hopes for others

John McGraw and Rakeem Jones meet in court
(Post photo by Liz Condo)
The presidential election was contentious, not just among candidates, but voters, leading to protests, fights and accusations of racism. One such incident took place at a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C., a city of more than 200,000 where the population is 42 percent black and 46 percent white and Hillary Clinton won the county of 325,000 by of 56 percent to 40 percent.

Fayetteville, "an increasingly polarized city in a polarized state in a polarized country," mirrors much of the country in that is the kind of place where two varying worlds exist, one where blacks and whites live separated from each other, Terrence McCoy reports for The Washington Post. The incident at the Trump rally involved a 79-year-old white man elbowing a 27-year-old black protester in the face. While both deny race played a part in the incident, it has undeniably had an impact on it since, with "little public agreement over who was ultimately the true victim that night."

John McGraw, the assailant, said at the time, “We don’t know if he’s ISIS. We don’t know who he is. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him," McCoy writes. McGraw now says he regrets saying those things, but has never apologized to Jones and suggests that he might be the one who is the victim of racism. McGraw, who said he often asks himself why he acted the way he did, said he has "never considered himself a bigot or a hateful person." McGraw, who said he was humiliated by the press coverage, said the event wouldn't have been news if the victim had been white or McGraw has been black.

The victim, Rakeem Jones, said he quit his job after the company's name was published and he used most of his savings to buy a car, to avoid using the bus, for his new job in a different part of time, out of fear that McGraw was serious about killing him or that a white-supremacist group might decide to try something, McCoy writes. He said in his rough neighborhood in northwest Fayetteville, "threats are sometimes carried out" and he has seen friends and family members die from violence.

The two ultimately met again in court, where Jones forgave McGraw, McCoy writes. "What he got when he returned to the trailer park that day were outraged messages and online comments. As news spread, more people started calling him a sellout for forgiving McGraw. They told him he was wrong to shake his hand, that he was wrong to hug him. But he had spent nine months thinking about McGraw and the Trump rally and believed, with the election weeks past, it was time to let it go. So when McGraw, now in his own trailer, unexpectedly phoned him the next day to see how he was doing and to thank him for his decency, Jones listened awhile and told him he appreciated the call."

This item was first posted Jan. 3 but was reposted as part of overcoming a technical issue.

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