SWAMPSCOTT — The weekly Monument Square Trump rallies, which appeared to have cooled down in recent weeks, were back in full force this weekend, culminating in the arrest of a anti-Trump protester who reportedly punched an an elderly Trump supporter in the chest.
Ernst Jean-Jacques Jr., 32, of Haverhill, was charged with assault and battery on a person 60 years or older. The woman, later identified as Swampscott resident Linda Greenberg, refused medical attention.
“It was a powderkeg,” said Swampscott Police Sergeant Jay Locke of the crowd of 40 or 50 people that congregated at Monument Square Saturday. “Just the way people were interacting with one another. This was definitely more aggressive action than in previous weeks. It felt like it was going to be violent at any moment.”
To keep the situation under control, Swampscott police called in for backup from Lynn, Marblehead and Nahant.
The counterprotest, which usually is comprised of North Shore residents, was instead made up largely of members of an out-of-town group led by Joseph Castro Del Rio, who sports a signature half-beard. He was involved in a Saugus protest in October that was similarly confrontational.
“They were from all over. South Shore, Western Mass, a couple from New Hampshire,” said Locke. “No message was getting out on either side.”
This, coupled with the fact that the Trump protest is dominated largely by out-of-towners led by former radio host Dianna Ploss, created a situation Saturday in which two groups clashed on North Shore turf while actual North Shore residents were barely involved.
Ploss’ long-running pro-Trump event, which has occurred on Thursdays for the last 35 weeks, was recently shifted to Saturday.
Many members of the North Shore contingent of BLM supporters and anti-Trump protestors chose to gather at the normal time Thursday, in a peaceful demonstration.
The alleged assault occurred at around 11 a.m. Saturday across the street from the Monument on the ocean side.
In a video recorded by Ploss, Jean-Jacques Jr. is seen across a barrier from the Trump supporters dancing to “It’s Raining Men,” which the Trump supporters were playing from a speaker.
“It’s raining Trumps,” he sings, through a full black facemask.
Greenberg can be seen making her way through the crowd, approaching Jacques Jr. at the barrier.
Water appears to splash onto Jean-Jacques Jr., possibly from the Greenberg, which causes him to reach aggressively across the barrier, appearing to strike the woman in the chest.
The video is obscured at the last minute, so a viewer can’t see if his hand connected with the woman.
Afterwards Greenberg can be seen doubled over and shaking, holding a water bottle.
“She definitely seemed shaken up,” said Locke.
Jean-Jacques Jr. left the scene after appearing to strike Greenberg, was apprehended by police and escorted away in handcuffs, police said.
The Trump rally, which has sometimes had a pro-law enforcement bent, later turned confrontational towards the police.
“The police are in bed with burn, loot and murder,” said Ploss, holding up a sign reading Stop The Coup. “I back the blue, but only the ones who support America.”
“I think that all officers there did a wonderful job,” said Locke. “It’s a credit to who we are and what we stand for.”
According to Locke, the counter-protestors eventually began to march on the police station, before changing course and marching to Gov. Charlie Baker’s house instead, where they continued demonstrating until about 2 p.m.
This is the second arrest of a counter-protester in the past month. On Nov. 19, police arrested Nathan Dinnall, 39, of 104 Newhall St., Lynn, after he tried to take Trump organizer Diana Ploss’ digital camera that she was using to stream the demonstration.
While no Trump demonstrators have been arrested at the Swampscott protest, Ploss was arrested at a rally in Plymouth after punching a counter-protester in the face.
Jacques Jr. was released on a $550 bail bond and is awaiting a hearing later this week.