We Went to a Donald Trump Rally, and He Threatened to Punch a Guy

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — On Monday night, businessman/GOP frontrunner Donald J. Trump was confronted by protesters at his Las Vegas, Nevada event, and Trump responded by saying he'd like to "punch him in the face."

Donald Trump speaks to crowd in Las Vegas

The real estate mogul spoke to a packed arena at the South Point hotel and casino in Las Vegas — one day prior to the Republican caucus on Tuesday.

The event was pure pageantry: Clips from a Barbara Walters special on the Trump family played on giant screens while the crowd waited. At least one Trump impersonator roamed around the event and songs like Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and the Rolling Stone's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" blared through the speakers. Attendees could even purchase concessions to eat, while watching Mr. Trump deliver his stump speech. (The woman on my right, a spirited Trump volunteer, munched on nachos, while the Millennial to my left ate a pretzel and Reese's peanut butter cups.)

Trump rally Las Vegas

But the true spectacle came when, at three separate moments, protesters stood up to voice their dissent — their particular causes were lost to the echo of the arena and the sounds of booing. Each time a protester spoke the energy in the arena was ratcheted up: the crowd stood, booed, and called for the person to be ejected from the arena.

Trump responded differently each time. After the first protester, he called for the guy to be ejected. To the second protester, he said he'd like to "sit down" with someone like that, and launched into a speech about liberals and conservatives wanting the same things.

But it was the response to the final protester that caught the eye of the media. Trump said he missed the "good old days," saying that back in the day if someone disrupted an event like this, he'd "be carried out on a stretcher, folks."

“The guards are being very gentle with him,” Trump stated. “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you that.”

Trump claimed the protester was throwing punches, but Politico confirmed with event several security personnel that the protester was not punching.

Here's How Trump Stokes an Audience

Donald Trump's stump speech took different turns: decrying the Iran deal, calling for a repeal of Obamacare, doubling down on his desired use of waterboarding ("I’m just a guy who doesn’t want to be pushed around by a bunch of animals"), continuing his feud with Pope Francis, and of course, discussing the infamous wall he plans on building between the United States and Mexico.

The most poignant part of Trumps speech was when he brought up the need to take better care of veterans. As he pointed out the often-touted statistic that on average 22 veterans commit suicide per day, the crowd held up octagon shaped signs that said "stop" on one side and "22" on the other.

The need to curb the epidemic of veteran suicides is a bipartisan issue (and the subject of a devastating New York Times piece). However, the statistic, which is used by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, is often taken out of context. The Washington Post explains that the statistic "comes from the VA’s 2012 Suicide Data Report, which analyzed death certificates from 21 states, from 1999 to 2011."

Trump's biggest point was that he is self-funded, and claims to not be taking money from lobbyists or special interests. (The volunteer to my right was extremely enthusiastic about this issue, stating that she never gets emails asking for money from Trump, but gets several per day from the other candidates.)

Trump may be predicted to win in Nevada, but the businessman still repeatedly encouraged event-goers to vote — saying he'd be "so angry" if supporters did not show up to vote. "The most important thing we can do is — I'm not going to use the word caucus — I'm going to use the word, just vote," Trump told the arena.

The Nevada Republican caucus begins at 5:00 PM on Tuesday.