A security officer employed by Virginia Wesleyan University was captured on camera tackling a supporter of President Donald Trump during a Bernie Sanders rally in Virginia Beach on Saturday.
Markus Gohring told NBC affiliate WAVY-TV he’d shown up to the event to exercise his First Amendment right to free speech.
“I wanted to tell the people that go there that I’m not with them,” Gohring said.
Footage obtained by WAVY-TV, as well as video posted to social media, shows security members confronting Gohring, who is standing outside the event waving a pro-Trump flag.
After a back and forth with one security officer, Gohring begins to leave.
“I didn’t know who he was, what his authority is and so I asked who authorizes him to tell [me] that I have to go off-grounds,” Gohring told WAVY-TV.
The officer followed the departing Gohring and grabbed his flag, before throwing him to the ground.
“I saw he was pulling a weapon and that’s when I ran,” Gohring said.
His attorney, Tim Anderson, told WAVY-TV the security officer acted to get Gohring’s pro-Trump display off of campus.
“That was the 100-percent motivation of that campus security guard,” he said.
In a statement to WAVY-TV, Virginia Wesleyan spokeswoman Stephanie Smaglo appeared to suggest Gohring had threatened “physical violence” and had become a “threat to public safety.”
“A video circulating on social media shows a security officer engaged in an altercation with a disruptive attendee in the parking lot prior to the rally. Unfortunately, the video does not depict the preceding actions of the individual that necessitated the officer to take action. Virginia Wesleyan University holds freedom of speech and open dialogue at the deepest core of its values. However, when the conversation turns to physical violence and becomes a threat to public safety, it will not be tolerated on our campus,” Smaglo said in her statement.
In an emailed statement to Pluralist, Anderson characterized Virginia Wesleyan’s stance as “defamatory.”
“Insinuating by reference that Mr. Gohring had conversations of ‘physical violence’ or was a ‘threat to public safety’ are the amplifiers in this equation. This is not a he-said she-said,” said Anderson.
“We have the video of the entire interaction between campus security and the assault which unequivocally proves Mr. Gohring did no such thing,” Anderson added.
Virginia Wesleyan declined Pluralist’s request for comment, citing the fact that both parties have obtained legal representation.
Anderson told WAVY-TV he and Gorhing are exploring “criminal and civil actions” and plan to press assault charges against the security officer.