Ohio man denies Trump tweet that he's an 'anarchist' after video goes viral

Nathan Caraway is denying what some on social media have said is proof that an "anarchist" paid off young people to sow dissent at a protest.

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By Erik Ortiz

Nathan Caraway attended Saturday afternoon's raucous protest in downtown Columbus, Ohio, he said, not to clash with police but to present a message of peace and calm.

But a video of him at the scene that went viral on social media — and was amplified on President Donald Trump's Twitter account Monday with the words, "Anarchists, we see you!" — thrust Caraway into an unexpected national spotlight.

Caraway, 32, denied Tuesday what some on social media say is proof that an anarchist paid off young people to sow dissent at the demonstration, and he said he is not personally associated with anarchists or linked to left-wing or anti-fascist groups. Trump and other Republicans have accused members of antifa of traveling across the country to stoke violence at daily protests that have sprung up in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

Caraway said he realized Sunday morning how bad the situation had gotten for him when Columbus police used a series of images of him from the video in a Facebook post asking for the public's help in identifying him, describing him as a "person of interest." Police updated the post to say he had been identified, and they shared a YouTube video titled "Columbus Antifa paying people to do tasks in riots." It had been viewed almost 80,000 times by Tuesday night.

Caraway said that on Monday, as Trump's tweet was being viewed more than 12 million times, his life was completely upended.

"It is very unfortunate the president has shared it and the Columbus Police Department has shared it in a way that's been very damaging on my character," he said, adding: "There have been threats made against my life. I've been completely doxxed — my address, my phone numbers."

He also said he has been recognized on the street and chased down while in a car.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday about Caraway's claims.

A Columbus police spokesman also did not immediately return a call and an email seeking comment about the Facebook post or to confirm that Caraway is the person police had identified.

Caraway — who works in the medical marijuana industry and as a filmmaker with local musicians — has sought legal representation from Columbus-based lawyers Sean Walton and Jalyn Parks, who said they believe him to be a "good guy" whose actions were misconstrued and who was wrongly painted as a troublemaker on social media and by the president.

In a 17-second clip shared by Trump, Caraway is seen handing something to a young man and talking to him and another person.

"Go get everything you need to find," he is heard saying.

He refers to a "team" and says, "There's more stuff they need to put out here." He then mentions moving a couple of picnic tables to where they are.

Caraway said he had been at the protest for about an hour and asked some young people to get medical supplies and water for a wash station to help protesters tear-gassed by police. The youth said they had no money, he added, so he forked over his last $60.

He said that they biked away and that he is unsure whether they bought the supplies as intended. At that moment, the protest heated up, and people ended up using the picnic tables for protection when police fired wooden projectiles.

Nathan Caraway says he was injured by wooden projectiles during a protest in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, May 30, 2020.Nathan Caraway

Caraway said he took a couple of the wooden bullets to the back of his leg, leaving a deep purple bruise. He made his way limping to a side street amid the mayhem and became emotional before he found a woman who helped him, he said.

A large number of protesters were injured or pepper-sprayed during the unrest, Cleveland.com reported, including Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, who was seen on video getting caught up in a smaller scuffle.

Protesters told Cleveland.com that they believed police were inciting the violence, which followed two nights of property destruction and protesters' arrests in the city.

The Columbus Dispatch also reported officers' use of wooden bullets. Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said he told Police Chief Thomas Quinlan that their tactics were inappropriate, according to the newspaper, and that "they did not meet our community's or my expectations around engagement with crowds of overwhelmingly peaceful protesters."

Jordan Mitchell, a friend of Caraway's, told NBC News that he was there Saturday afternoon as a protester. He said that Caraway was a half-block away as the wooden bullets were being fired and that people were building a barricade for protection.

"Nathan wasn't paying anybody to attack police," Mitchell said, adding that if anything, he had been "tempering the anxiety and the anger that was going on in the crowd." He described Caraway as a "pacifist."

To see Trump and others on social media portray his friend as an anarchist is wrong, Mitchell said, and unfair.

"I don't think the burden of proof should be on Nathan and any of his friends," he said. "If you had seen that video without any spin or headlines, you wouldn't have extrapolated that he's part of a terrorist group."

Another Facebook post shared Monday by someone who said he was at the protest wrote that he saw Caraway and "never witnessed him vandalizing."

"He just happened to be where we were in the front," the post said. "What i did see is him helping everybody when they started gassing us and shooting at us with wooden bullets unprovoked."

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"What I saw was him and other protestors grab loose plywood that wasn't nailed up, tables, garbage cans, and signs to block the wooden bullet onslaught," the man continued. "Again I don't know him but I'd like to thank him for helping people out. If he is in fact vandalizing things I will not support it."

Caraway is not the only person to have been caught up in apparent misinformation from the video.

Aaron Dessner of the rock group The National tweeted Sunday that despite claims that he appeared to be the "anarchist," he was not in Columbus but was socially distancing in the countryside.

"This morning I've woken up to the unpleasant and surprising news that I've been misidentified by some social media users as someone seen encouraging rioting in Columbus, Ohio," he tweeted. "I am not the person some are suggesting I am and I would never support violence of any kind. Nor have I been in Ohio since June 2019."

Walton, one of Caraway's attorneys, said Tuesday that there were no plans to take legal action but that Caraway "simply wants his life and his freedom back." He said he is reaching out to Facebook and other social media companies about the video.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment about their policies.

Caraway remains adamant that he has no affiliation with antifa and that he rarely watches the news, so he has barely heard of the coalition of protesters, left-wing activists and self-described anarchists who oppose far-right ideologies.

As for Trump's part in all of this, Caraway said: "I have already forgiven the man. I actually have a lot of forgiveness in my heart."

"Love and forgiveness are the most important things that we can carry," he said, adding that the experience, he hopes, has taught people a lesson: "Don't believe everything you see on the internet."