Man charged with assaulting protester at Trump rally in North Carolina: report

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A protester (2nd R) is hit at a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in North Carolina March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rosalyn Curtis

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - A man is facing criminal charges after police say he assaulted a protester being removed from a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in North Carolina, local television station WRAL reported on Thursday. (Video:

John McGraw, 78, of Linden, North Carolina, has been charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, the news station said on its website. The incident on Wednesday night in Fayetteville was caught on video by bystanders.

Sheriff's officials could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office earlier told the Wall Street Journal it was investigating why officers arrested the protester but not the man who punched him in the face.

Rakeem Jones, the man who was hit, told the Washington Post that the blow caught him off guard.

"After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out," Jones told the newspaper.

Trump's campaign rallies are boisterous in tone, with the New York billionaire often pausing in his addresses to scold protesters and ask security officers to take them away. At a rally last month in Nevada, he said of a protester, "I'd like to punch him in the face."

The real estate magnate is the front-runner to be his party's presidential nominee for the general election on Nov. 8.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Frances Kerry)