The Hillary Clinton supporter at the center of the incident that sparked the Secret Service to rush Donald Trump off a Reno, Nevada rally stage claims he’s a Republican who was just holding a sign.
Austyn Crites, 33, was holding a “Republicans Against Trump” sign when he found himself in the center of the commotion. On Facebook, he refers to Trump as a fascist and a dictator and admits he’s supporting Clinton.
Crites, who was questioned and later released, was rushed out of the Nevada rally by law enforcement in a dramatic scene as Secret Service agents suddenly pulled Trump off stage when someone shouted “gun.” However, no gun was found.
One reporter said that people might have mistaken a sign Crites was holding for a weapon. Crites told a BBC reporter he was “saved” by the police. The incident comes as the polls are very tight in Nevada, with Trump leading slightly in the margin of error in polling averages and ahead by more in recent polls, but early voting tallies leading some experts to predict the state will go for Clinton. If Trump loses Nevada, his pathway to the presidency gets a lot tougher.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Crites Says on Facebook That He’s Voting for Hillary Clinton & Calls Trump a Fascist
Crites’ Facebook page indicates that he’s a Republican who is voting for Hillary Clinton. Shortly after the incident at the rally, Crites replaced the cover photo with one of an American flag. The original cover photo referred to Nevada Republicans proudly voting for Clinton. See:
A short time after the rally incident, Crites posted on Facebook that he voted for Clinton, canvassed for her, and donated money to her, and called Trump a fascist. He wrote in part, “Though I do not agree with many of Hillary’s policies, we cannot allow a fascist/dictator to take our beloved freedoms to simply boost his ego and ‘get back’ at anyone who disagrees. Take what happened to me tonight as a classic example of dictator incitement of violence – against your own Republican brother with a stupid sign.”
People filled his comment thread with insults and name calling, with one calling him a “Clinton mole.” Crites changed his Facebook page profile picture to say “Beat But Never Broken”:
On November 4, the day before the rally, he wrote on Facebook, “Time to get out and vote y’all!
I understand that this election has people torn, but we must chose HOPE over HATE!”
Some of his Facebook comments to friends are in Spanish. Crites’ page only has two posts on it.
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2. Crites Has Been a Registered Republican Since 2011
Although some Trump supporters have speculated that Crites could be a Democratic plant, Crites has been registered to vote as a Republican in Nevada since 2011.
One man with the same last name as Crites wrote on Facebook after the rally, “Bro, we support you. It’s a sad day when a devout republican, eagle scout, lover of our country and all that it stands for, stands up again a threat to our nation, and get’s his ass beat as a result. We love you and back your decision to voice your concern!”
After the incident, some Trump supporters raised the Project Veritas undercover video allegations from earlier in the year that allegedly showed Democratic operatives planting people to incite violence at Trump rallies. As CNN put it, “an edited video suggested that he (Robert Creamer) and other staffers hired people to attend Donald Trump’s campaign rallies and incite violence.” The “he” refers to Robert Creamer, a prominent Democratic operative who had visited the White House many times and was assisting the Democratic National Committee with the Clinton campaign.
However, there is no evidence that Crites is tied to any of that and, as noted, records show he’s been registered as a Republican since before Trump announced he was running for president.
Internet sleuths quickly found the name “Austyn Crites” in a WikiLeaks file:
Some in the media blamed Trump for the climate at his rallies.
The Clinton campaign has denied being involved in planting people to incite violence at Trump rallies.
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3. Crites Is an Entrepreneur Who Designs Balloons
In 2014, NWI.com said Crites was involved in a local startup that was “hoping to give regular people the chance to start their own ‘space program’ with its high-altitude balloons, capable of floating as high as 80,000 feet.”
LiveScience said of Crites, who ran a company called RockZip: “Like Ford before him, Crites seeks to revolutionize an industry that’s been around for a while.” Crites called his work a “new space movement.”
Online information about Crites describes his passion as balloons, not politics.
On LinkedIn, Crites says he is a “professional in cutting-edge aerospace inflatable design and manufacturing.” He also says he graduated from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
4. Trump Soon Returned to Stage & No Gun Was Found
Within five minutes, the Republican nominee returned to the stage after thanking the Secret Service and promised not to be deterred. He later released a statement:
CNN said the incident started because an “unidentified individual” shouted “gun” in the audience, adding that a “thorough search” resulted in no weapon being found.
Trump’s son retweeted a tweet referring to the incident as an assassination attempt.
The Secret Service statement does not indicate that Trump was ever really in danger.
5. Crites Told a Reporter He Was Punched & Kicked & Feared for His Life
A Guardian reporter, Paul Lewis, posted details from an interview he did with Crites:
Crites told NBC16 “When I pulled out the sign, people around me were trying to grab the sign. And so all that was occurring was booing, of course, that’s what you would expect.”
He told the TV station the situation suddenly escalated: “…bam, I get tackled by all these people who were just, like, kicking me and grabbing me in the crotch and just, just beating the crap out of me.” Then, he said, somebody yelled about a gun and “things really got out of hand.”
Crites also gave an interview to the BBC.
See more videos from the incident here:
Donald Trump was rushed off stage by Secret Service during his Reno, Nevada rally. What happened? Who threatened him? See the video and learn more here.Click here to read more
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