Unlike most of the speakers at the Trump rally at Ace Speedway on Saturday, Jesse Hursey wore a suit. His black leather shoes shone. His hair was carefully brushed back. The satiny red tie he wore over a light blue shirt flapped in the breeze.
Hursey faced the racetrack stands. A crowd gathered around. "First of all, I'm a Christian," Hursey said, his voice rising and falling with a preacher's practiced cadence. "Second of all, I'm a Republican. And in that order."
Later the same day, Hursey drove a pickup through Elon, shouting "White power!"
The Young Republicans of Alamance County, who organized the Trump rally, are now distancing themselves from Hursey. T.L. Mann, the group's chairman, said in a text message to The News & Observer that Hursey "has been immediately removed from our organization." Mann wrote that he opposed racism, but did not respond to later inquiries by text message or phone call.
While Hursey wouldn't answer a N&O reporter's questions about the incident — instead repeating "I deny any false allegations and condemn all forms of racism" — many people who attended the rally or the separately organized truck convoy posted photos and videos online that revealed Hursey as the speaker of the racist slogan.
Candidates for county commissioner, the local school board, the state House, the North Carolina Court of Appeals and U.S. Congress spoke at the rally, as did Clarence Henderson, a participant in the 1960 Greensboro anti-segregation sit-in and a speaker at the recent Republican National Convention.
During his speech, Hursey praised Donald J. Trump and encouraged the "silent majority" of the president's supporters to speak up.
As the morning rally wound down, Hursey joined many others in loading into the flag-festooned pickups that circled the speedway. A photo shows the 29-year-old Baptist preacher standing in the bed of a black truck along with a man in an orange sweater, who is sitting. Hursey has taken off his tie and put on a red-and-white baseball cap, surveying the scene.
A parade of roughly 200 cars, trucks and motorcycles soon moved toward Elon, where Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University, stood on a street corner holding a Black Lives Matter sign. She perched her cellphone on top of the sign and recorded the trucks passing by. A few drivers yelled at at her, using obscenities.
Squire's camera recorded a black pickup with Hursey at the wheel. The hat he wore earlier sits on the dashboard, along with his passenger's orange sweater. Hursey lifted his right hand from the wheel, cupping his mouth as if to amplify his voice, the video shows. Then he yelled directly at Squire: "White power!"
Squire's video, when slowed down, shows Hursey's mouth wide open mid-shout. The hat and sweater on the truck's dashboard match photos that show Hursey in the driver's seat of the black four-door pickup with black rims and Trump flags flying.
Squire believes that Hursey is the man who shouted "white power" at her from the black truck, and several people have said on social media that they believe the same.
In a 22-minute phone interview with the N&O, Hursey agreed to provide contact information for people who would vouch for him, but he never followed up.
He would not answer direct questions about his actions during the parade. His social media accounts, along with the online presence of Bynum Baptist Church, where he's a pastor, have gone dark.
Hursey said that he did not have a formal role in the Young Republicans political organization nor in his family's barbecue business, Hursey's Bar-B-Q, which has several restaurants in Alamance County.
Chuck Hursey, Jesse Hursey's father, emphasized that his business had nothing to do with the rally or subsequent truck convoy. He said that his son does not work for any of the restaurants, but he doubted his son was the person recorded yelling "white power."
Some local politicians who participated in the rally, including Lee Haywood, a candidate for U.S. Congress in the 6th District, and John Paisley, a candidate for county commissioner, told the N&O they did not condone racism or slogans like "white power."
Bynum Baptist Church, where Hursey acknowledged he preaches, is an independent church and not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., the executive director and treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
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