A Fairborn man with a history of protesting vaulted over waist-high metal railings, broke through two security staff and nearly got on stage near the end of Saturday’s Donald Trump rally near the Dayton International Airport.
Thomas Dimassimo, 22, was arrested for disorderly conduct and inducing panic, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. He was released from the county jail Saturday afternoon.
Secret Service and other security officers swarmed Dimassimo as he reached the back of the stage and tried to scramble up, about 8 to 10 feet from where the Republican frontrunner was speaking to a large crowd in the hangar at Wright Bros. Aero.
Trump was startled by the commotion, stopped his speech and was immediately surrounded by four Secret Service agents. After about 30 seconds, as the man was pinned to the ground and then led away, Trump returned to the podium, shaking his head. The crowd first booed and then started chanting, “Trump, Trump, Trump,” and “USA, USA, USA.”
Trump pointed to people right in front of the stage and thanked them for warning him of the man coming from behind.
“I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump said.
In April 2015, Dimassimo, then a Wright State University junior, helped lead an anti-racism protest that included students standing on American flags and holding signs saying, “Not my flag.”
“I thought it would ruffle some feathers, but I did not anticipate how tense the backlash would become,” Dimassimo told this newspaper at the time. “If anything, all that has shown is that people in this area and people on the Internet care more about a symbolic piece of cloth, than they do a black person’s life … or, even beyond that, our Constitutional rights.”
Many people in the crowd Saturday couldn’t see the altercation. The man jumped the fence and reached the stage in a few seconds, then was pinned to the ground behind the stage and out of sight for many.
When the rally ended, as Trump greeted supporters and signed autographs along the railing line, Dimassimo was being questioned outside two police SUVs about 50 yards from the rally site.
Dal Haybron stood behind the ruckus and said the man who rushed the stage was with three or four other people. He said the Secret Service was “too gentle.”
“He jumped over the rail and immediately they just nailed him,” Haybron said. “Boom. Done.”
A few other protesters were led out earlier in the rally, with Trump once telling security to, “Get ‘em out of here” to cheers from the crowd.
Two young men in the crowd to Trump’s right debated whether to make a scene, and yelled statements critical to Trump a couple times. But others nearby either ignored them or urged them to just watch the rally. After the man was arrested for charging the stage, they pair slid out the back door.
But the event was calm compared to Friday’s Chicago rally, which Trump canceled due to safety concerns after protesters packed the arena where he was scheduled to speak. After the cancellation, there were some isolated physical confrontations between protesters and Trump supporters. Chicago police said five people were arrested.
Trump addressed the Chicago issue during the Dayton rally, saying it would have been easier to let the Chicago event go on and let people fight and hurt themselves, but he said “we made the right decision” in canceling.
Charles Blevins of Washington Twp. said he was aware of the problems at the Chicago event before he came to Saturday’s rally.
“After watching on TV last night, I’m glad this turned out the way it did,” Blevins said. “They had a few protesters, but they probably have that at all events. I thought it was handled very well.”
Staff Writer Josh Sweigart contributed to this story.