A member of a right-wing group that Donald Trump told to “stand back and stand by” has been arrested for pointing his handgun at antifascist protesters during a rally in Portland.
Alan Swinney, a member of the Proud Boys – a group that frequently promotes violence against left-wing protesters – is being held in the Multnomah County Jail on charges of assault and unlawful use of a weapon.
The 50-year-old’s arrest comes just hours after the President called on the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in his response to a question asking him to condemn white supremacists.
His comments at the presidential debate immediately raised concerns that he was encouraging them to act as freelance poll monitors. But Mr Trump has now told reporters he didn’t know who the Proud Boys were.
“You’ll have to give me a definition because I really don’t know who they are,” Mr Trump said on Thursday morning (Australian time).
“I can only say they have to stand down and let law enforcement do their work,” he continued.
In late August, Swinney was caught on camera pulling a gun at a crowd of people who were protesting in Portland against police brutality and racial injustice.
White House officials played down Mr Trump’s comment about the Proud Boys.
“The president has condemned white supremacy countless times,” White House communications director Alyssa Farah told Fox News on Wednesday.
“I don’t think that there is anything to clarify. He told them to stand back … He’s leading. He doesn’t need any sort of vigilantism.”
The Proud Boys describes itself as a club of “Western chauvinists” but has been categorised as a hate group by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.
It has been involved in counter-protests to demonstrations about race and policing in Portland, Oregon, in recent weeks.
Its members often come armed.
Joe Biden denounced the Proud Boys during the presidential debate.
“My message to the Proud Boys and every other white supremacist group is: cease and desist,” Mr Biden said.
“The American people will decide who the next president is. Period,” he added.