A man captured on video kicking and punching an anti-Donald Trump protester at the presidential candidate’s rally in Tucson on Saturday is a member of the Air Force.
Staff Sgt. Tony Pettway, a response force leader, is assigned to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and was arrested on Saturday on a misdemeanor charge of assault with injury. He works in security forces.
The event in Tucson turned ugly when two protesters displayed offensive imagery in an attempt to make a statement against the divisiveness of the Trump campaign. Pettway was one of several people arrested at two Trump rallies in Arizona this weekend.
The anti-Trump protester carried a sign with a Confederate flag over an image of Trump and was being escorted out of the building when Pettway punched and kicked him.
The incident was caught on video. People can be heard cheering as Trump denounces another protester who was wearing a KKK-style sheet.
“There’s a disgusting guy. Puts a Ku Klux Klan hat on. Thinks he’s cute. He’s a disgusting guy,” Trump said. “I’m going to tell you folks, that’s a disgrace. They are taking away our First Amendment rights.”
Davis-Monthan is reviewing the situation and will take appropriate action, said 2nd Lt. Sydney Smith of the 355th Fighter Wing public affairs office.
Airmen are allowed to participate in political events on their own time, Smith said. “We believe wholeheartedly in our fellow Americans’ rights to express their views on political issues, and we strongly condemn any attempt to silence those views through force or violence,” Smith said.
Pettway was released without being booked into jail. It is unclear if he has an attorney.
Pettway, 32, began active duty in the Air Force in August 2002 and completed his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson said. He was stationed in South Korea twice and in New Mexico before moving to Davis-Monthan in December 2012. Dickerson said Pettway has received a commendation medal on three occasions but didn’t know what they were for.
Tucson police also arrested 67-year-old Linda Rothman on a misdemeanor count of assault without injury. They haven’t said why she was arrested.
Authorities in Phoenix, where Trump held a rally earlier in the day, also arrested several protesters. Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies identified three protesters who were arrested while helping block the only major highway leading to a Trump rally in metropolitan Phoenix.
Steffany Laughlin, Jacinta Gonzalez and Michael Cassidy were all booked on one count of obstructing a public thoroughfare, deputies said.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.