A man received a hero’s welcome from Donald Trump after ripping a sign out of a protester’s hands during a Tuesday rally.
In a raucous scene, Trump paused his remarks as he watched a scuffle break out in the crowd. As a protester was escorted out, Trump invited two men up on stage -- one who confronted the protester, another who broke up the ensuing chaos -- and then turned the podium over to them.
“Do not let them intimidate you,” the man who took the sign, Jerry Black, from nearby Clearwater, said to his fellow supporters. “You back this man right here to the hilt.”
The protester was holding a sign with a pro-immigration message. Witnesses said Black tore the sign away, and that the protester took a swing at him. While the sign was ripped to shreds by the crowd, the two men grappled with each other until an off-duty sheriff’s deputy stepped in, the deputy said.
Law enforcement said the protester remained peaceful as he was led outside, though held up his middle fingers as he left. No one was injured or charged.
"Who is the person that took action over there? Come here," asked Trump.
In front of the crowd of 1,500, Black gave Trump a spontaneous endorsement.
“I ain’t gonna lie to you, Donald, I kinda was a little iffy,” he admitted, before declaring "you’re the best we got by far.”
Trump also invited on stage the off-duty sheriff's deputy who broke up the scuffle. He later identified himself as Thomas Andrews, of neighboring Richmond County in Georgia.
“I got two tours of Iraq,” Andrews said into the microphone to a loud ovation. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Trump right here, I don’t think any of us [veterans] would have the voice that we have.”
Andrews, who retired after eight years in the Navy, told ABC News “It was pretty cool. I’ve never been to a presidential rally. I wasn’t expecting anything like that, that’s for damn sure."