University of Louisville student Shiya Nwanguma spoke with Insider Louisville about her experience at Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Louisville, where video shows her being shoved and yelled at by multiple attendees.

Video from WLKY of Nwanguma being shoved spread virally the night of the rally; one of the individuals seen pushing her was Matthew Heimbach, a leader in the Traditionalist Workers Party, a white supremacist group.

Image via WLKY
Image via WLKY

Nwanguma filed a complaint with the Louisville Metro Police Department on Thursday, making her the third protester at the rally to do so in the last 24 hours. She specifically filed the complaint against Heimbach and one other individual she believes she knows the identity of, and hopes the police will be able to later identify any of the others who shoved her by reviewing the video.

The student said she went to the rally alone and did so to show that not everyone agrees with Trump.

“I went because I felt it was really important for people who are in opposition to Donald Trump and what he represents to show up and show that a lot of people in this country do not respect what his campaign is about, and that they do not believe in what he’s saying,” said Nwanguma.

Nwanguma said she had two pieces of 13-by-9 paper that she wanted Trump to see, keeping them concealed until she could get close enough for Trump to make eye contact with it.

“I got up near the front and showed Donald Trump the sign, and the second that my hand went up people started to attack me, even though they couldn’t see what was on the paper,” said Nwanguma. “I guess just from my appearance, they put two and two together and realized I wasn’t a supporter. Somebody ripped one out of my hand, and then (Trump) looked at me and he said ‘get her out of here,’ and then that’s when I was attacked.”

Asked how many people grabbed and shoved her, she said, “I really could not even tell you. More than I could count.”

Nwanguma said she initially was escorted out of the crowd by someone she assumed was security, “but if he was security, he kind of left me for dead. He was supposed to be escorting me and got me maybe halfway through the crowd, and then just left me and let them do whatever.”

“Whatever” included violently shoving her from all directions, which is where the WLKY video picks up her experience. She said she was briefly able to take video at this point on her phone — unable to do so earlier because she had trouble putting in her password as she was being shoved — and that her footage “speaks volumes.”

Nwanguma said people in the crowd called her “every name in the book. The C-word, the N-word, all of it. They were just an angry mob. It was like all they needed were pitchforks. That’s all they needed, and it would have been perfect.”

One of the men shoving her in video clips is Heimbach, who has a long history of support for white supremacy/nationalism, fascism, anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany. A week before the rally, Heimbach tweeted a quote from conservative radio host Glenn Beck that Trump would give rise to “brown shirts” — Hitler’s violent henchmen — adding his own reply: “God I hope so.”

Heimbach bragged on Twitter after the rally that protesters of Trump had lost the “fight,” and in a blog post the next day he admitted to being one of the men shoving Nwanguma, writing “White Americans are getting fed up and they’re learning that they must either push back or be pushed down.”

Though no video has emerged of any protester at the rally engaging in violence, Heimbach’s blog post claims that Black Lives Matter activists instigated the violence, including Nwanguma. She says this is completely false.

“I guess there are some rumors going around that people saw me bombarding the crowd and pushing people over with a big poster with a pig on it,” said Nwanguma. “That’s not how it happened, that’s hyperbole. I was as respectful as I could be to the people around me. I was very quiet. I don’t think I said more than 10 words while I was inside the rally… There will never, ever, ever be any video evidence of that, because it did not happen.”

“This is America… we’re supposed to have free speech, we’re supposed to have the right to assemble,” said Nwanguma. “I think I behaved myself in the best way that I knew how, and the reaction that I got from the crowd was based on my peaceful, calm demeanor. I just don’t know how it would have turned out if I would have stood up for myself a little more, you know?”

Nwanguma adds that Heimbach called her “leftist scum,” but “I don’t really take that as an insult, honestly. If you hate me, I must be doing something right.”

Speaking of those who shoved her and yelled slurs at her, Nwanguma said, “Their views are coming from a very ignorant place. Maybe fear? I don’t really know. I think they need to educate themselves a little bit and open themselves up to try to learn something about somebody else, and maybe they wouldn’t feel the way that they do. But that’s up to them, not me, I guess.”

Nwanguma has hired local attorney Dan Canon, who told IL they are discussing options about a potential civil lawsuit.

Collegiate High School student Henry Broussard also filed a criminal complaint with LMPD Wednesday night, as did activist Molly Shah of Louisville, who were both at the rally to protest Trump. Both claim they also were assaulted by Trump supporters in the crowd, including those wearing Traditionalist Workers Party attire.

Both Attorney General Andy Beshear and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer have tweeted statements criticizing the violence shown against Nwanguma in the WLKY video, and Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine issued a statement on the matter Thursday, saying, “While not prejudging the results of any investigation, the conduct depicted in the videos of these encounters at the Trump rally is not acceptable in a country that prides itself on the right of peaceful assembly and a free exchange of ideas.”

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]