Police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, said they arrested a man who slashed open a giant “Baby Trump” balloon during the president’s trip Saturday to the football game between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University.
A group protesting President Donald Trump’s visit set up the 20-foot inflatable caricature in a park near Bryant-Denny Stadium ahead of the match between the top-ranked college teams. It was looming among the crowds outside when someone ran up with a knife and cut an eight-foot gash in the side, organizers said.
Police identified the suspect as 32-year-old Hoyt Hutchinson of Tuscaloosa. They said officers arrested him after he sliced into the balloon and tried to flee.
Hutchinson was charged with first degree criminal mischief, a felony, and held on a $2,500 bond. It was not clear if he had retained an attorney.
The appearance of the Baby Trump balloon marked the third time in recent weeks that the president has faced conspicuous opposition at sporting events. He was met with sustained boos and chants of “lock him up” when he attended a World Series game at Nationals Park in Washington last month. And he got a similar reception when he attended a mixed martial arts event in New York at the beginning of November. The reactions have incensed some of Trump’s supporters, who call the behavior disrespectful.
While the Baby Trump balloon caused a stir outside the Alabama-LSU game, Trump appeared to get a mostly warm welcome inside the stadium, where he was greeted with a mix of boos, cheers and chants of “USA! USA!”
By the time the game ended, a GoFundMe page titled “Restitutions for Baby Trump Stabber” had been set up by a user named Hoyt Hutchinson. It featured a video of a man resembling Hutchinson’s mugshot yelling “Trump 2020!” as officers push him into an SUV.
A description on the page read: “Hoyt made sure our beloved president didn’t have to see this disrespectful balloon on the streets of Ttown today!!” The paged had raised more than $15,000 as of Sunday morning, far surpassing its goal of $6,000.
According to the Tuscaloosa News, Hutchinson posted a Facebook Live video the before game in which he said he wanted to take down the Baby Trump float.
“I’m shaking, I’m so mad right now,” the man in the video said. “I’m fixing to pop this balloon, without a doubt. Stay tuned. This should be interesting.”
The figure of a scowling, orange-faced president in a safety-pinned diaper made its debut during Trump’s trip to the United Kingdom last year. A website under the name Baby Trump Tour now loans out six giant infants and tracks their appearances at Trump visits around the country, from a Florida rally to a Pennsylvania Shell plant.
Protest organizers said they raised several thousand dollars more than the $4,000 needed to bring the balloon to the Alabama-LSU game.
The event had been going smoothly before the balloon slasher arrived, Robert Kennedy, one of the organizers, told the Associated Press. Some people shouted “Trump 2020,” he said, while others posed for selfies. Then someone sneaked up behind the float and slit it open.
Kennedy told the Associated Press he has accompanied Baby Trump to other events and never seen anyone attack it.
“It is rare to get that kind of anger,” he said.
Washington Post writer Hannah Knowles contributed to this report.