Gay conservative Michael Newton and his partner were part of the Reno rally that mobbed Austyn Crites, a Trump protester who was mistakenly believed to have a gun.
Crites, 33, brought a “Republicans Against Trump” sign to show his displeasure with the Republican nominee during a Saturday campaign stop in Nevada, a crucial battleground state in this year’s election. Donald Trump is currently trailing his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by less than a percentage point in the state.
Tensions were already high, but jeers from Trump supporters gave way to violence at the event, Crites told The Guardian. “There were people booing, that's expected, right?” Crites said. Then all of a sudden these people next to me are just starting to get violent. They are grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand."
That’s when things got a lot worse.
"Multiple people just tackled me down, kicking me choking me and just beating me up," he added in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I was on the ground and people were holding my arms, legs, and I kept saying I can barely breathe. I was turning my neck just to get a little bit of air to keep from passing out."
After Crites was thrown to the ground, someone yelled out that he had a gun, but he dismissed the idea that anyone could have mistaken his sign for a deadly weapon.
“It wasn’t like they noticed something suspicious and tackled me," Crites told the Reno paper. “That’s not the case.”
Newton, however, has a different account of the altercation, which the Trump campaign initially claimed was an “assassination attempt.” The 45-year-old says Crites, who was eventually handcuffed and taken away by Secret Service agents, started the violent altercation that led to his arrest.
“I saw his hand contact someone’s face,” Newton, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., with his husband, Donald, told the Gazette-Journal. “Maybe two people.”
Newton, who restrained Crites, says he was just trying to help.
“I was trying to get the Secret Service’s attention for them to respond,” Newton told the Reno paper. “They didn’t respond. I thought I had to do something. I put my knee on what I think was his head, so I’m not really sure. There were five guys on him and he was moving. I tried to help them immobilize him.”
Although there is an ongoing Secret Service investigation into the incident, authorities have not been able to locate a gun anywhere on Crites’s person. The protester, who plans on voting for Clinton, doesn’t hold a grudge toward those who mobbed him.
“The people who attacked me — I’m not blaming them," Crites told the Gazette-Journal. "I’m blaming Donald Trump’s hate rhetoric.”
This is only the most recent time a gay conservative couple has made national headlines. Dewey Lainhart, 31, and Cody Moore, 22, attended a Trump rally at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, holding hands. After the couple was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, a video of the the pair went viral, racking up over 200,000 views as of October.
Twelve percent of LGBT people plan to cast a ballot for Trump during Tuesday’s election, The Washington Post reports.