A young black woman is pushed by attendees at a Trump rally in 2016. Photograph: Unknown video screenshot.
Matthew Heimbach charged with misdemeanor over 2016 Kentucky incident. Trump alleged to have incited violence by saying ‘Get ’em out of here’
The white nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach has been summoned to appear in court in Kentucky on 14 June, after being charged with harassing a young black woman at a Trump campaign rally last year.
Video of Kashiya Nwanguma being shoved and shouted at by Trump supporters went viral last year, amid intense scrutiny of the xenophobic and racist rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Heimbach is also being sued by Nwanguma as part of a lawsuit alleging that Trump incited violence against her and other protesters at his campaign rally, when he referred to the protesters and said: “Get ’em out of here.”
In April, Judge David J Hale rejected Trump’s free speech defense and ruled that the case could proceed, writing: “It is plausible that Trump’s direction to ‘get ’em out of here’ advocated the use of force.”
In a legal filing in April, Heimbach denied that he physically assaulted protesters at the rally and argued that he had “acted pursuant to the directives and requests of Donald J Trump” and that “any liability must be shifted to one or both of them”.
In response to the charge of which he was notified on Saturday, a misdemeanor, Heimbach told the Guardian on Monday: “This is a politically motivated prosecution that is totally out of touch with reality of what happened that day.”
He declined to comment further on his interaction with Nwanguma at the Trump rally, which he has previously described in a blogpost on his group’s website.
“I think I have proved that I am a law-abiding citizen,” he said, adding that he would appear in court.
The harassment charge against Heimbach was brought last year. But according to Phillip Reed, the commissioner of public safety in Pikeville, Kentucky, state law enforcement officials were not able to locate him in order to serve him with a summons.
Heimbach, who lives in Indiana, came back to Kentucky for a highly publicized neo-Nazi rally that took place in front of Pikeville’s historic courthouse on Saturday.
The rally drew more than 150 members of racist groups from across the country, including the League of the South, the National Socialist Movement and Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party, as well as more than 100 counter-protesters who also came from multiple states.
After the rally, as Heimbach was heading back to his car, a city police officer served him with a criminal summons to appear in Jefferson district court in Louisville on 14 June, Reed said, adding that there were “no problems” with the interaction.
The charge is harassment with no physical injury, a misdemeanor. Reed said the district attorney in Louisville had contacted his department to let them know of an active summons for Heimbach they had been unable to serve.
“We just waited [until] they completed the rally so we didn’t cause any alarm,” Reed said, noting that Heimbach’s group had been granted a permit to demonstrate.
On Saturday in Pikeville, neo-Nazis marched into their protest late. Some were armed with rifles while others carried homemade painted shields. They waved flags and gave the Nazi salute while chanting: “Hail Heimbach! Hail Heimbach!”
More than 100 self-described anti-fascists held a counter-protest across the street, chanting “punch a Nazi in the face, every nation every race” and waving signs that showed the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer being punched.
The demonstration was completely peaceful, Reed said, with “no physical contact between the two groups” and no property damage.
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