In an appearance on Fox News, Sen. Rand Paul claimed without evidence that only counterprotesters were arrested at the Million MAGA March and its tumultuous aftermath, and that they were solely responsible for the outbreaks of violence there.
The Washington, D.C., police questioned the accuracy of that statement and said it didn’t know the political affiliations of all those arrested. Two people arrested with semiautomatic weapons at the Nov. 14 event were described by D.C. police as Trump supporters and members of a “militia.” And a man who was stabbed after the rally described himself as a protester, not a Trump supporter.
At the same time, anti-Trump demonstrators provoked some of the incidents, according to published reports.
Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, is known as a vigorous defender of President Donald Trump. Paul has said he was attacked by an angry mob after the Republican National Convention in Washington in August. On Nov. 17, Paul was talking about the Million MAGA March on Neil Cavuto’s show “Your World” and defending Trump supporters.
Paul, Nov. 17: Everybody arrested were the people attacking the Trump supporters. … These were the anti-Trump people creating the violence entirely.
But Alaina Gertz, a spokesperson for Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, told us that wasn’t the case.
“I don’t think that’s accurate,” Gertz said in a telephone interview. “We haven’t verified the political affiliations of those arrested.”
Gertz told us 25 people have been arrested in connection with misconduct at the rally.
The Million MAGA March in the nation’s capital was organized by Trump supporters to express support for the president and to rally around his baseless claim that the election was being stolen from him. Its name is a play on the Million Man March organized by Black activists in 1995. MAGA, of course, is the acronym for Trump’s slogan, Make America Great Again.
Another D.C. police spokesperson, Dustin Sternbeck, told the Washington Post that two of those arrested were affiliated with a militia, generally regarded as a term for right-wing organizations. The Post said the family of one of the suspects denied that, and Sternbeck declined to identify the group or give more details about it.
Police Chief Peter Newsham said the two — Joshua Justice Skillman, 28, of Dallas, Georgia, and his girlfriend, Samantha Falk, 33 — told police they were in Washington to “support their president.”
According to the Post, Skillman and Falk were arrested after police saw them carrying semiautomatic weapons. Skillman told police they had licenses for the weapons in Georgia. But they didn’t in D.C. Police found additional weapons at their hotel, including a loaded submachine gun, the Post said.
Gertz declined to provide further details about the incident or about the suspects’ alleged militia affiliation.
D.C. police are also investigating a stabbing incident in connection with the rally and protest. In an interview with the Post, the victim, a 26-year-old man, said he had been protesting against “fascist violence and threats to D.C.’s Black, Brown and queer communities.” The Post said the victim spoke anonymously because there had been no arrests in the case.
The victim said he encountered a group of men, some wearing MAGA hats, who seemed to be drunk. The man told the Post there was a clash and someone in the group of men sprayed pepper spray. The man said he was stabbed when he bent over to help another protester.
“I thought I’d been punched, because I’ve never been stabbed before,” he told the Post. “I started to run. Then I started to feel liquid on my side, and I first thought it was water from my water bottle. I took off my glove and stuck my hand in the blood. I held up my hand to say, ‘I need help!'”
Gertz declined to provide more details about the stabbing.
In another incident, which has attracted much attention on social media, four men were arrested after an altercation in which a Trump supporter was hit from behind and knocked to the ground. One of the four was charged with aggravated assault. D.C. police said in a press release: “One of the suspects struck the victim rendering him unconscious. Other suspects assaulted the victim and took his property. Four suspects were apprehended at the scene by responding officers.”
Police said they were looking for additional suspects.
Trump retweeted a short video focusing on the end of the fracas showing the Trump supporter being hit from behind and then stomped on before he is led away, bleeding.
Human Radical Left garbage did this. Being arrested now! https://t.co/fXSsXXp5yc
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020
But a longer version of the video provides context and shows the man as the aggressor in much of the brawl. We don’t know if there were more interactions between the people not shown in these two videos.
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) November 15, 2020
And, according to the Post, while much of the rally itself was peaceful, it was counterprotesters who caused much of the trouble in the aftermath.
Here’s what happened, according to the newspaper: “When darkness fell, the counterprotesters triggered more mayhem as they harassed Trump’s advocates, stealing red hats and flags and lighting them on fire. Scuffles continued into the night as the provocateurs overturned the tables of vendors who had been selling pro-Trump gear and set off dozens of fireworks, prompting police to pepper-spray them.”
So Paul was wrong when he said “these were the anti-Trump people creating the violence entirely.” Both sides appear to have incited incidents at the Million MAGA March and its sometimes boisterous aftermath. And there’s no evidence to support Paul’s claim that “everybody arrested were the people attacking the Trump supporters.”
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org does not accept advertising. We rely on grants and individual donations from people like you. Please consider a donation. Credit card donations may be made through our “Donate” page. If you prefer to give by check, send to: FactCheck.org, Annenberg Public Policy Center, 202 S. 36th St., Philadelphia, PA 19104.
This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here for more.