Monday night's presidential debate was watched by a record-breaking 84 million Americans.
At least that many. The 84 million figure leaves out anyone who watched the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump showdown online.
Millions more are lost in the television ratings estimate, having gathered to watch the debate in groups, large and small, but most often made up of like-minded Americans.
One young woman was on her way to just such a gathering Monday night, making her way through the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter, Minnesota. The student was trying to get to a debate watch party of her fellow Republicans. She now claims her walk took an ugly detour.
The co-ed was "assaulted" for the lone fact that she was sporting "apparel" that identified her as a Trump supporter, according to a statement from the Minnesota College Republicans. The statewide political outift called what happened to the student "unacceptable," though they didn't quite spell out the details of what that was.
"College campuses are meant to be places of freedom of speech and diverse opinions without fearing for one’s physical safety," reads the statement. "In the case we saw [Monday] night on Gustavus Adolphus College’s campus, this did not seem to be the case."
The release goes on to call for the school to "combat violence on campus," particularly that aimed at students over "the way they look or what they wear."
The statement was later edited to include one salient fact that was missing at first: The alleged assault was "a direct violation of Minnesota Statute 609.224, Subdivision 1." This is a very serious-sounding way of saying what happened was the lowest offense on the state criminal code for assault.
Under the language of that law, a Minnesotan is guilty of misdemeanor assault if he or she:
(1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or (2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.
That language means what happened might have been little more than a shouted threat or gesture. Or maybe someone threw something and missed. Local Republican activist and blogger Walter Huson (himself no great fan of Trump's) says if the roles were reversed, and the victim was a Hillary Clinton supporter, we'd have a "trending national story" on our hands. Doubtful. Not without more to go on.
Regardless, this is bad. No one should feel threatened because of who they plan to vote for. Don't scare or hurt anyone because their shirt is "with her" or their hat thinks America must be made "great again."
Restraint can be difficult when one of the participants has promised to "hit" his opponent "harder" in the next debate. She can handle it. Leave the hitting to them.