Shirley Teeter has a long history of participating in protests, beginning in the late 1960s with civil rights marches and protests against the Vietnam War.
So, when she heard last week that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump was coming to Asheville, appearing less than a block from where she lives, she decided to go and speak her mind.
Before the rally, as people filed in, Teeter says, everyone seemed in good humor.
But after the rally, the demeanor was different, she says.
“They were angry, ready for a fight,” she says. “People should know how Trump works people up in those rallies of his.”
Still, Teeter, who is 69 and uses oxygen because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, never imagined a man would haul off and sock her in the jaw.
“I told him he’d better learn to speak Russian as he walked by me,” she says. “And that his first words should be ‘ha, ha.’”
She says she was referring to Trump’s cozy relationship with Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.
The man, later identified as Richard Campbell of Edisto Island, SC, hauled off and punched her in the jaw, Teeter says.
“I guess I lost consciousness because I don’t remember hitting the ground,” she says. “He tried to say I grabbed him, but that’s not true. I never touched him.”
Bystanders helped her up and emergency medical personnel tended to her wounds – bruises on her jaw and ribs and a badly skinned elbow.
“I asked the police to please arrest him,” she says. “But they didn’t.”
Apparently, if police don’t witness the assault, they can’t arrest the perpetrator, even with video evidence and a number of people offering to testify against him. A warrant was issued the next day, and Teeter said then she will press charges.
Teeter has had X-rays and no bones were broken, but two days after the assault, she was sporting a large bandage on her elbow and an ice pack on her badly bruised ribs.
Photos of Teeter on the ground, her eyes closed, went viral pretty quickly. The story made national news, including reports in CNN and the Washington Post.
“I don’t feel famous,” she says, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. “I feel violated. I feel people are being manipulated by Trump. I’ve never seen a candidate behave like this. … There are those of us who listen to his words and don’t hear the same thing. I hear the lies and the call to hate people and I see him for what he is – a very dangerous man.”
Just seeing the difference in people after the rally, Teeter says, makes her want to speak out even more. Without hesitation, she says she would go again and protest.
“You can’t let hate stop you,” she says. “I don’t know why that man thought it would be OK to punch me, I really don’t, but I refuse to be angry. I’m sad about what happened, but nobody will rob me of my sense of peace. Nobody can take that away from me. Nobody.”