Posted by Sharlene Holt, M4F
John McCain and Sarah Palin continued their reunion tour with a stop in Mesa Saturday, but the rally turned violent outside. Palin implored Arizona to “send the maverick back to the United States Senate.” But just as Palin took the podium, hecklers began to disrupt the former Alaska governor.
Witnesses said one of the hecklers was pulled up by the hair by a McCain/Palin supporter. As the man — who said his name is Alex — was taken out of the auditorium, he is seen in video being tackled by three men, one identified as a police officer in plain clothes, a man in a McCain T-shirt, and another man.
WATCH EXCLUSIVE VIDEO OF THE SCUFFLE — caught by ABC15’s Christina Boomer
Witnesses say another protestor was also punched by someone in the crowd. Ethan Elder was taken into custody by police, but was later released. Police say no arrests were made and nobody is facing charges.
“I shouted my message. My intention was to speak my political opinion and leave peacefully,” Elder said. “I was immediately assaulted by the crowd. They turned angry and belligerent.” Some protestors complained that the Palin/McCain supporters who attacked them were not taken into custody or charged by police. Meantime, McCain supporters called some of the protestors rude and wondered why they would attend a rally for McCain if they don’t agree with him.
Alex said the group of detractors went to the rally with the intent of disrupting Saturday’s event. On Friday, McCain and Palin campaigned together for the first time since they lost the presidential race in 2008. Palin is lending her conservative star power to help McCain bolster his credentials on the right. Former Phoenix-area congressman and talk-radio host JD Hayworth is challenging McCain from the right, saying the four-term senator isn’t conservative enough for Arizona voters. The GOP primary challenge is the toughest re-election battle of McCain’s Senate career.