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Shearer: GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters roughs up 73-year-old Dem. protester in Green Valley


Shearer: GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters roughs up 73-year-old Dem. protester in Green Valley

GV resident wears 'Black Lives Matter' shirt, 'Jail Trump' hat to Republican mixer, ends up punched & pushed, then cited by deputies

  • Peter Jackson with the shirt he was wearing Saturday.
    Dan Shearer/Green Valley News Peter Jackson with the shirt he was wearing Saturday.
  • The woman with the pink phone balls up her fist before delivering a blow in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
    The woman with the pink phone balls up her fist before delivering a blow in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
  • Peter Jackson is struck by a woman at the GOP gathering Saturday in this screen grab from his video.
    Peter Jackson is struck by a woman at the GOP gathering Saturday in this screen grab from his video.
  • Peter Jackson pushes away a woman's arm after he is hit in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
    Peter Jackson pushes away a woman's arm after he is hit in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
  • U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters (blue shirt) takes down Peter Jackson in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
    U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters (blue shirt) takes down Peter Jackson in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
  • That's Blake Masters' hand around Peter Jackson's neck in this screen grab from Jackson's video.
    That's Blake Masters' hand around Peter Jackson's neck in this screen grab from Jackson's video.

Peter Jackson expected to ruffle some feathers when he showed up at a Republican event in Green Valley on Saturday wearing a "Jail Trump" hat and a "Black Lives Matter" t-shirt. What he didn't expect was to be on the receiving end of a right hook by an upset woman, knocked to the ground by a U.S. Senate candidate, and tossed into the breezeway, where he laid on the sidewalk injured until deputies arrived.

He also didn't expect to be the only one cited in the fracas — for trespassing and simple assault.

How is it all going to play out? Well, there's plenty of video and witnesses, a Pima County sheriff's report and a court date. But we know where this is headed — how you see it will depend almost entirely on your politics.

Peter Jackson is 73, a fierce Democrat, and if piles of letters to local newspapers are any indication, he isn't reluctant to share what's on his mind.

After I heard about Saturday's dust-up, I went to his home in Green Valley and knocked on the door fully expecting to be told to take a hike. But he let me in and was more than happy to talk, share his videos and — eventually — trust that I'd be accurate if I ended up writing about it.

Jackson isn't hard to figure out. He relished the Obama years, suffered through Trump's one term in office and practically swoons at the idea of a Bernie Sanders presidency. He has never been politically involved, he says; 38 years living in liberal Hawaii meant it wasn't really necessary.

He saw an opportunity in Green Valley on Saturday night when he heard that more than 20 GOP candidates had signed up for a meet-and-greet kegger at Continental Shopping Plaza. It was sponsored by United Republicans of Green Valley and Sahuarita and held in the shopping center's conference room.

Jackson doesn't see the Green Valley group as typical Republicans, insisting they and their national counterparts are dragging the country back to 1930s Germany.

It doesn't occur to Jackson that a lot of people see him as fringe, too, although I pointed it out more than once.

He said the goal when he walked into the packed room was to bring a bit of sanity to the right wing. Given that the public was invited, he thought it perfectly fine to show up.

"I went in hoping to be allowed to witness the event and listen to the candidates and possibly share the video I was obviously taking," he said. "Post-event, I would like people to see that they're not rational people. They're really violent people. They're people Americans should be concerned about."

That wasn't the only hyperbole from Jackson, but we'll get back to that later.

What happened?

Jackson had his tiny Go Pro camera rolling when he entered the second-floor conference room.

He was greeted with all the enthusiasm of a hot dog vendor at a vegetarian gathering.

Jackson acknowledged it was probably startling to see a guy show up wearing an N-95 mask, aviator sunglasses and a "Fully vaxxed" button. Not to mention that t-shirt, which in its entirety read: "Black Lives Matter More Than White Feelings; Check Your Privilege."

"I didn't want to get into a hassle," he told me. "If I am approached with reason, I would listen. But they were just telling me to get out."

According to his own video, that's not quite true.

While the Republicans didn't roll out the welcome wagon, some were downright cordial in approaching him and asking him to leave.

But others screamed in his face — and isn't it just like the press to give the loudmouths more ink. But only because they quickly became the majority, surrounding Jackson, covering his camera with their hands and calling him a "murdering damned bastard" and "a damned hypocrite" — apparently their version of an abortion debate.

They told Jackson to leave: "You're not welcome here. Get out. Get out."

And, oddly enough, he was accused of harassment.

In somewhat of an understatement, Jackson told me the Republicans were "very confrontational."

What did you expect, I asked him. You were crashing their party. While I wouldn't agree with the crowd's language, the sentiment was right on — shove off.

But he didn't.

"I wasn't at all afraid, I was just interested," he said. "And in a way, I wanted to disrupt it a little bit with what I thought is the truth — that Trump should be jailed, Black lives do matter."

Now might be the time to mention that this wasn't Jackson's first rodeo.

He was blocked from entering local GOP headquarters when they staged a mock funeral procession for Democrats shortly before the 2020 election. Jackson recalled some jostling as he tried to get in the door and told me, "I think an old guy fell to the ground," but he doesn't remember details.

He has also walked through the crowd of Trump supporters waving flags at Esperanza and La Canada while wearing his "Dump Trump" baseball hat. No problems there, he said.

As for Saturday, Jackson planned to record as long as he could and then offer the video to Democrats or put it on YouTube (which he has done).

"I want to support Mark Kelly more than anything," he told me, which has to be sending shivers down the spine of the Kelly campaign right about now.

Jackson says he'd have complied had the Republicans asked him to leave instead of ordering him. When I pressed him on that he admitted, no, he probably wouldn't have.

Which is what led to an altercation just minutes after his arrival.

Nice right hook

When it became clear Jackson had no intention of leaving, several people dialed 911. The crowd around him grew, including one woman who got in his face with her pink phone.

He caught it all on his Go Pro.

At one point, and just inches from his face, the woman reached out and shoved him in the side. Then she balled up her fist and delivered a right hook that snapped Jackson's head back.

He had his phone in his left hand and his Go Pro in his right — and the video started getting a bit wobbly. But it's clear enough to see that he put out his hand and pushed hers away. He did not strike her, according to the video I saw. It was clearly a move to protect himself.

Then out of nowhere comes Blake Masters, a U.S. Senate candidate who'd been glad-handing in the background.

Masters lunged at Jackson, put both hands around his neck and pushed him backward.

This might be a good time to point out that Masters, at 35, is less than half Jackson's age.

With the camera rolling — and bouncing all over the place by now — Jackson fell to his knees and was swarmed by what he called 10 to 12 men. But was probably closer to four or five. He was dragged then — yep — literally thrown out the door onto the concrete breezeway. Then somebody yelled, "Lock the door!"

By this point, Masters' brief cameo was long over.

Jackson ended up on the ground with his head cocked and resting against a wall, knees bloodied, glasses askew.

Imagine the scene — all caught on video — of Jackson on the phone with a 911 operator as several Republicans stood over him, one with a cane yelling, "You're a disgrace to the human race!"

And lots of other really nasty stuff.

Then the Republicans worked quickly to frame the incident with cries of, "You can't hit a woman, what's wrong with you?" "He's attacking a woman just like they attack innocent children!" And, "You just hit a lady."

Right — the lady with the wicked right hook who connected twice before Jackson knew what hit him.

Meanwhile, Jackson was on the ground no doubt waiting for Sheriff's deputies and his Oscar for best actor in a melodrama.

Because he sure was milking it on the phone with the 911 operator:

•"They're yelling at me, they're attacking me," he said. (No they weren't.)

•"About 15 people jumped on me." (No they didn't.)

•"They knocked me down and tried to steal my necklace." (Wrong.)

•"Is it OK if I just stay where I am because I think if I try to leave they're going to kill me." (Eye roll.)

•"They're all kinda drunk." (I've seen drunk. This wasn't it.)

Then Jackson got it right: "They say that I hit a woman but I was defending myself." And, "They knocked me down on the ground."

The deputies came and Jackson said they were professional and understanding. He turned over his video but they didn't look at it right away. Based on what I'm sure were completely objective witness statements from the GOP crowd, Jackson ended up with two citations — trespassing and simple assault — and will be in court July 1. The ambulance guys patched up his knees and he went home.

Jackson told me he called one of those greasy face-on-the-phonebook lawyers and said he's still contemplating his next steps. The thought of pursuing legal action got a bit more traction during my visit — he hadn't seen the woman's second punch till I pointed it out.

What they said

I visited the United Republicans of Green Valley & Sahuarita on Tuesday and was politely told they'd have no comment on the incident.

Then I contacted Blake Masters' campaign and told them I have a video that shows their candidate with his hands around an old guy's neck. Would he like to explain?

Despite a promise of a phone interview, I ended up getting this from Masters (really, from his handlers — whose job it is to put out fires just like this one): "A left-wing activist came to a Republican event, started harassing people, and then hit a woman. I intervened and put an end to that. He was subsequently detained by the police and cited for assault. Let me be clear: if you come to an event I'm at and attack a woman, it's going to be a bad day for you."

Masters' press statements read a lot like his platform — about half of it is true, he doesn't bother to check the facts, and he likes to puff out his chest.

Let's go over his statement: I'd agree that Jackson's presence at the event was an attempt at harassment in and of itself. But Masters leaves the impression that Jackson was harassing individuals. That's not remotely true from the video I watched. Heck, the guy couldn't get a word in edgewise even if he wanted to.

Then Masters says Jackson hit a woman. The video says different, so does the citation, (I have a copy). It says Jackson was cited for "Assault — touch to provoke."

While that's inaccurate from the video I saw — Jackson was defending himself — it's not akin to striking somebody. It's also not an attack, as Masters also claimed.

This leaves us where?

Regardless of where you stand, nothing good happened Saturday night.

Jackson should have stayed home. He was there to poke a stick and make people uneasy. He should be glad he got away with just a couple of skinned knees. He wants the world to come to its senses but he's not there yet himself.

The initial small group of Republicans was handling the situation well. It's when the people with pitchforks and torches showed up that they lost the moral high ground.

It has to be unnerving to have a Peter Jackson show up at an event, but did it warrant knocking him down and tossing him outside? People sneak recorders into political events all the time to collect information on the opposition. At least Jackson was doing it openly.

The good news is that far-right members of the GOP and people like Jackson on the far left don't represent the values and interests of most of us. We do our best to ignore them, though outlets like Fox News and CNN make it difficult. This type of rancor translates into higher ratings and more cash, which is all they care about.

I'd love to believe we had a couple of take-aways from Saturday, but neither side is very teachable these days. That leaves it to the rest of us to study the issues, reject fringe candidates and organizations, and do our best to be decent Americans and consistent voters.

As to Mr. Jackson pondering future legal action, I'd encourage him to drop it, which is likely what will happen with his two citations. Let's all move on.

This opinion piece was first published by the Green Valley News.

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