A man in a Pepe the Frog shirt crashed a party for an anti-hate rally and pepper sprayed a transgender person in the face over the weekend, police say.
Morris May, 22, was arrested Sunday in Asbury Park, New Jersey after he and his brother wore pro-Trump shirts to a gathering of LGBT activists who were making signs for a “Stand Against Hate” rally the following day. Morris allegedly confronted the activists, accused them of “trying to take away [his] rights,” and pepper-sprayed Allie Koralik, a transgender person in the face.
The rally was billed as a vigil for victims of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a far-right rally attendee drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring over a dozen others. That didn’t stop May from donning a shirt featuring the alt-right meme Pepe, with the text “for those about to MAGA, we salute you,” and traveling to the sign-making party with a can of pepper spray and a “Trump 2020” sign.
Koralik was attending the party at a boardwalk art gallery when the two brothers began harassing her friends, she told the Asbury Park Press. "He was saying, 'I hate liberals,' 'I hate you people," Koralik said, "'you're trying to take away our rights. When I asked him 'What rights?' he had no answer."
When Koralik asked May to leave, he allegedly tried to dodge around her up the stairs into the gallery. Then he raised a can of pepper spray and fired it into her face.
Koralik’s glasses protected her from the worst of the pepper spray, which also stung her mouth and nose, she said. But even as Koralik was recovering from the attack, May was blaming her for it on Twitter.
“I'm not a criminal,” May tweeted hours after the attack. “I only pepper sprayed her because she was violating my personal space and wouldn't leave me alone.”
Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of the New Jersey LGBT rights group Garden State Equality said he arrived on the scene shortly after the attack, and that police were swift to arrest May within minutes.
“The Asbury Park Police Department handled the situation extremely well and has ensured that everyone in the community that they’re safe,” Fuscarino told The Daily Beast.
But despite charges of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, May was quickly released without bond.
May, who did not return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment, told NorthJersey.com that he believed leftist activists to be more violent than those on the right, and that he carried pepper spray to the LGBT sign-making party in self-defense.
But May’s Twitter presence suggests a prior dislike of the LGBT community, and a casual attitude toward assault.
“My kind of beer is just like my assault charges: Domestic,” May tweeted in July.
In recent weeks, he tweeted in defense of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, asked the church to protest an LGBT cartoon, and responded to a tweet about musical theater with a meme of Vice President Mike Pence captioned “we need to turn up the voltage,” a variation on a far-right meme about Pence supporting gay conversion therapy.
In August, he tweeted a video of leftist activists screaming when police released pepper spray at them. As of Tuesday, the Westboro Baptist Church was one of three accounts May followed on Twitter.
Joe Grillo, a volunteer with the Stand Against Hate rally said the incident illustrated why even the famously LGBT-friendly Asbury Park needed an anti-hate event.
“It was an unprovoked attack,” Grillo said in a livestream shortly after the attack. “This is why we need to have this rally tomorrow. A lot of people said why do it in Asbury Park? Because hate is everywhere right now. It’s happening right at our front door.”
Koralik speculated that May and his brother might have mistaken the sign-making party for the rally scheduled for the following day. “We’re not talking about rocket scientists here,” she told the Asbury Park Press.
If May had waited until the following day, he would have found himself far outnumbered, as over 1,000 rally-goers marched with pro-LGBT posters from the party he attempted to interrupt the previous night.
“I am so pleased by the turnout of the rally that took place the next day, where over 1,000 people gathered to band against hate,” Fuscarino said. “It was a nice reminder that extremism is nowhere near as strong as solidarity and understanding.”