An 18-year-old Charlotte college student who was ejected from Thursday’s Donald Trump rally says he went from avid backer to disillusioned opponent after Trump’s security staff accused him of being a known protester.
Jake Anantha, who registered as a Republican and planned to cast his first presidential vote for Trump, was wearing a Trump shirt when police removed him from the Charlotte Convention Center before the rally began. He and his father, Ramesh Anantha, say they believe he was profiled because of his dark skin.
“It’s unbelievably ironic,” said Ramesh Anantha, whose parents immigrated from India. He says his son, as a young person of color appearing at a rally where the Republican presidential nominee touted his support for people of color, “should have been looked at as a perfect Trump supporter. He should have been somebody they’re putting up on stage.”
I’m a huge Trump supporter – I was. I would never protest.
18-year-old Jake Anantha
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Kirk Bell, communications director for Trump’s North Carolina campaign, said Friday morning he would look into the incident and respond. Friday afternoon he sent an email that said, in its entirety: “My statement is as follows: We were informed last night that security identified those individuals asked to leave as individuals who have been removed from previous events.”
When the Observer pressed for an explanation of whether the campaign still believes Anantha has disrupted previous events or whether this was a case of mistaken identity, Bell said the identification was made by Trump’s security director, former FBI agent Eddie Deck.
“You’d have to talk to those guys,” Bell said, adding that he had not asked for details but would follow up.
We don’t need to be throwing out any of our supporters.
Kirk Bell, communications director of Trump’s North Carolina campaign
Jake Anantha graduated from Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Ardrey Kell High this year and enrolled at Central Piedmont Community College. His parents are conservative Republicans, but his dad says the teen’s ardor for Trump sometimes made even them say “Whoa!”
“When I saw him on TV, I personally didn’t mind his rhetoric,” Jake Anantha said Friday. “I defended him. When people called him a racist, I said he’s a critic of our flawed immigration system. He’s strong on Islamic terrorism.”
Anantha says he arrived at the Convention Center around 3:30 p.m., and when the crowd was admitted around 4:30 he took a position near the stage. He says he was standing there when a security staffer tapped his shoulder and asked him to come with him. He says the staffer said, “We know who you are. You’ve been at many other rallies.”
Across the country, Trump rallies have been marked by confrontations between protesters who disrupt speeches and the candidate’s supporters and security staff.
Rose Hamid, a Charlotte Muslim who has appeared at various Trump rallies to peacefully protest his depiction of Muslims, was ejected from Thursday’s event as she was handing out flower pens as part of her “Salam, I come in peace” campaign.
This man is dangerous. Look at the people he surrounds himself with.
Muslim activist Jibril Hough after the Charlotte rally
Jibril Hough, a Muslim activist from Charlotte who was removed from two South Carolina Trump rallies, attended the Charlotte event and was not asked to leave. Hough, who is white, brought a small “Go Yellow Against Hate” star but said he didn’t try to disrupt the Charlotte rally or call attention to himself.
The security staffer who asked Anantha to leave refused to answer an Observer reporter’s questions or identify himself. Anantha says he told the man this was his first Trump rally and he had no intention to protest. But police were called to escort Anantha and Hamid out of the room. Anantha says police warned him not to cause a fuss and get arrested.
Anantha says he stood outside the Convention Center watching a stream of white people enter.
“I thought (Trump) was for all people. I don’t believe he is for all people anymore,” he said. “Why are all these white people allowed to attend and I’m not?”
We are going to reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton, which sees communities of color only as votes and not as human beings worthy of a better future.
Donald Trump in Charlotte
Trump has struggled to gain support among minority voters. Only 2 percent of African-American voters and 26 percent of Latino voters say they back him, according to a McClatchy-Marist poll earlier this month.
In his Charlotte speech, Trump repeatedly emphasized his desire to connect with people of color. He talked about working with the African-American community to improve public education and fight poverty.
“Jobs, safety, opportunity. Fair and equal representation. This is what I promise to African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and all Americans,” Trump said.
Jake and Ramesh Anantha say they realize it was not Trump who ordered the removal, but they say the candidate is responsible for the people he hires and the tone he sets.
“It was a very rude introduction into the world of politics,” said Ramesh Anantha, who works in financial services. “We realize Donald Trump himself had nothing to do with this problem, but it’s the type of campaign he’s running.”
Both men say they’d like an apology, but even if that happens, Trump has lost the family’s vote.
Jake Anantha says he thinks he’ll vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson.