The Trump administration has been very bad for everyday Americans, but it’s been a fairly nurturing environment for racists and white supremacists. Trump sewed those seeds last summer after the alt-right march on Charlottesville, Virginia, when he delivered a press conference acknowledging that there were tremendous people on both “sides” of the racial divide.
The latest case of Trump-fueled racism comes from St. Augustine, Florida, where a 60-year-old man threatened two men he believed to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant.
The incident occurred on Wednesday morning, and by all accounts was completely unprovoked.
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Apparently, 60-year-old John Jay Smith was exiting the McDonald’s dining area when he encountered the two men munching on burgers in the parking lot.
Smith approached the men wielding what they perceived as a switchblade or some type of knife, demanding the men “get out of [his] country,” because, according to Smith, the men “do not deserve to eat here.”
The altercation escalated as the men approached their vehicle, hoping to put distance -and some locked metal doors – between themselves and Smith’s tantrum.
Smith took that opportunity to rush to his car to grab his “zapper,” the pet name he gave to his stun-gun. He then turned back to the men and accosted them as they were trying to take refuge in their vehicle. Somehow, Smith managed to get his arm inside the vehicle and attempted to use his “zapper” on whichever man he could reach.
In his haste to escape Smith’s torment, the driver accidentally backed into a pole in the parking lot, causing minor damage to the rear bumper. It was at this point the men called authorities who arrived on-scene to interview Smith, a McDonald’s employee who witnessed the interaction, and the victims, who at that point told authorities they had been told to “get the f*** out of here! You don’t deserve American food!”
Officers from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO) apprehended Smith shortly after. He faces two third-degree felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one first-degree felony charge of burglary with assault or battery and a third-degree felony charge of trespassing, according to his police report.
The report also notes that Smith was possibly intoxicated, but his assumption that men he encountered practiced a religion which scared him prompted the encounter.
As a result, SJCSO spokesman Chuck Mulligan said in a comment to First Coast News that hate crime addendums may be added to Smith’s charges. That decision will be made by the State Attorney’s Office, he said.
Investigators say that upon placing Smith in custody, he began defending his actions by shouting at deputies “they killed my son” and “my son was a Marine.” Smith claims his son was a Marine who died in Afghanistan while in combat.
The loss of a child is widely regarded as the single-hardest situation a parent can endure, and should Smith’s claims that his son’s life was cut tragically short in a battle overseas be true, he deserves all the comfort and peace to cope with his loss.
However, accosting two strangers for the crime of existing while the same skin-color as the enemy soldiers who brought about his son’s tragic demise is not a coping mechanism nor does it provide any true comfort.
Instead, he chose to insult his son’s memory by invoking his name to defend his own racism, and for that he should be endlessly ashamed.