Security personnel surround Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after a man tried to rush the stage during a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, outside of Dayton, on Saturday, March 12, 2016. The man was stopped and Trump continued with his speech. (Lisa Powell/The Dayton Daily News via AP)
People are seen on the ground after a man tried to breach the security buffer, according to a spokeswoman for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, during a campaign rally with Trump at the Wright Brothers Aero Hangar, Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Vandalia, Ohio. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Police surround Thomas DiMassimo, a counter-protestor who stomped on a Confederate flag during an Aug. 1, 2015, pro-Confederate flag rally at Stone Mountain. Curtis Compton / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
—Staff writer Leon Stafford contributed to this article.
The man with metro Atlanta ties who rushed the stage this weekend at an Ohio Donald Trump rally denied having ties to ISIS during a CNN interview on Sunday.
Thomas Dimassimo, whose mother is former Cobb County Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo, told CNN that a video of him with Islamic writing and music was doctored. The video, which shows him dragging an American flag on the ground, was taken from a protest at Wright State University more than a year ago, he said.
“I am not a member of ISIS. I have no known ties to ISIS. I’ve never been out of the country. I only speak English,” DiMassimo said during the CNN interview. He called Trump a “bully” in the interview and said he wanted to show that he is not afraid of the Republican front-runner.
“… It was more important for me to show that there are people out there who aren’t afraid of Donald Trump,” DiMassimo told CNN. “He says scary things. He lets his people do scary things. He’s threatened Mexico, Islam, you name it, and yet I’m unafraid. And if I can be unafraid enough to go take his podium away from him, then we all can be (un)afraid enough to not let this man walk into the White House.”
DiMassimo’s mother, Faye, currently works as manager of Atlanta’s infrastructure bond program. She resigned as Cobb County’s transportation director in November to take the job.
Cartersville attorney Lester Tate is representing the family and helped Thomas DiMassimo retain an attorney in Ohio. Tate said the family has received several threats since Saturday’s incident, and they have been reported to police.
“While the family is very supportive to him in this process, they certainly don’t condone jumping over a barrier and trying to rush through secret service agents,” Tate said.
Tate also said it is “unfortunate” that people are associating DiMassimo with a terrorist organization.
“He’s a college student with strong beliefs who acted out inappropriately on those beliefs,” Tate said.
A right-wing website claimed that video of a protest at Wright State University last year, showing DiMassimo dragging an American flag on the ground, has been used by ISIS, but its veracity was unclear and some said it was a hoax.
That uncertainty, however, did not stop Trump from echoing the sentiment on his Twitter account Saturday: “USSS did an excellent job stopping the maniac running to the stage. He has ties to ISIS. Should be in jail!”
Thomas DiMassimo said he “had no intention of hurting anyone,” but that he had pre-planned his protest before arriving at the rally, a Dayton police report of the incident released Sunday said.
DiMassimo, 22, was arrested Saturday on misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and inducing panic at the rally, held at a hangar near the Dayton International Airport in Vandalia, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton.
DiMassimo told police he had planned to run up on stage, take a microphone and yell, “Donald Trump is a racist,” according to the report.
Instead Secret Service and other security officers thwarted DiMassimo’s plan, swarming him about four feet from the stage where Trump was holding the rally.
A secret service agent allegedly “busted his own nose as he fell on top of DiMassimo” while attempting to handcuff him, the report said.
DiMassimo’s mother, Faye, left her position as Cobb’s transportation director in November to become administrator of the city of Atlanta’s infrastructure bond program.
Anne Torres, communications director for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, declined to comment Saturday night on the arrest.
“This inquiry is a personal matter unrelated to Faye’s work with the administration,” she said. “We are not in a position to comment.”
Video of the event shows four Secret Service agents leaping into action and surrounding the Republican front-runner until DiMassimo was hauled away.
“I was ready for him, but it’s much easier if the cops do it, don’t we agree?” Trump said.
The Dayton Daily News reported that most people at the rally didn’t see the incident, but Dal Haybron did. The newspaper quoted him as saying Secret Service agents were “too gentle.”
“He jumped over the rail and immediately they just nailed him,” Haybron said. “Boom. Done.”
The newspaper also reported that DiMassimo, as a Wright State University junior last year, 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 the 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.”
Last August, DiMassimo — who reportedly had small parts in “Yes, Dear,” “Reno 911!,” and “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” as a child actor — was among a group of counter-protestorsat a Confederate flag rally in Stone Mountain.
Photos from the event, which came a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., show DiMassimo with what was reported as a shredded flag around his wrists as he walked with counter-protestors. He also was accused of standing on the controversial flag during the event.
DiMassimo’s arrest comes in the wake of violence in Chicago on Friday, after Trump cancelled an event there because of hundreds of protesters, who then clashed with supporters. Five people were arrested.
Faye DiMassimo’s resignation — just 18 months before the first pitch at SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves’ future home — raised eyebrows, because of the tens of millions in road projects planned before the opening of the ball field; the proposed expansion of transit in the county, which she championed; and her lead on the effort to build a controversial I-285 bridge that is considered a critical safety element for the new stadium.