Progressive Activists Beaten and Hospitalized as Trump-Era Political Violence Intensifies

Two progressive activists were hospitalized Sunday night after being beaten and, in one case, thrown down a flight of stairs at an event hosted by conservative James O'Keefe, a self-styled investigative journalist and an established fraud. Both were released Monday with minor injuries; police have made no arrests.


The violence ensued when Ryan Clayton, who blogs for The Huffington Post, took the mic for questions at a "Friends of Abe" event in midtown Manhattan. Clayton runs Americans Take Action, which recently took part in a counter-sting operation against O'Keefe's Project Veritas. The former had begun singing before he was identified, grabbed from behind and put in a chokehold. "I felt a pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, and then there was nothing left to pop," he said. "There was a moment I thought, 'Oh God, this is how I die.' Last night was the most terrifying night of my life."

Clayton was sent tumbling down a staircase before his fall was broken by a man standing mid-way down. He claims he was kicked in the head.

Jason Charter, the other activist injured in the melee, reports that he too was assaulted and that his camera, phone, wallet, glasses and tie were all stolen. "Somebody looked at my neck tie and I was thrown to the ground," he said. "I had a foot placed on my neck and held down. My lower right abdomen is very sore from the kicks."

James O'Keefe, who made a name for himself in right-wing circles for his surreptitious recording of ACORN offices in 2009, has declined to comment on the incident. A spokesman for the police says that officers were called to respond to a harassment complaint rather than an assault. Last week, an antifa protester was shot in the stomach at a demonstration in Seattle. 

"I feel like I stood face to face with fascism [Sunday] night in a bar in Manhattan," said Clayton. "The brown shirts are here."

Read more at The Huffington Post.

UPDATE: James O'Keefe has issued a rebuttal of sorts with footage of a separate encounter involving Clayton and Lauren Windsor of The Undercurrent. More from The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim and Christopher Mathias:

The video confirms that at a restaurant in Washington, just before the inauguration, a liberal and a conservative sat down for a meal together, and both surreptitiously filmed the other. Each was trying to get the other to say something incriminating.

O’Keefe’s new video also includes footage of Clayton and The Undercurrent’s Lauren Windsor following the conservative operative out of the restaurant and taunting her with questions ― with Clayton shouting, on multiple occasions, “Gotcha bitch,” and getting into a cab with her.

O’Keefe told HuffPost the tactics were over the line. “Do they think it’s appropriate to harass a woman down a street, call her a bitch and follow her in a cab?” O’Keefe asked.

Clayton, in an interview Tuesday, said that “Gotcha bitch” was a Dave Chappelle reference. He said he otherwise doesn’t apologize for his treatment of the woman, arguing that turnabout is fair play.

O’Keefe also condemned The Undercurrent for posting his personal cell phone number online; a supporter of O’Keefe responded by posting Callahan’s number. (O’Keefe ally Laura Loomer posted Windsor’s phone number online first, which precipitated the response, according to a screenshot Windsor provided HuffPost).

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