MANHATTAN — An anti-bullying activist who Donald Trump once called "a shining star" was arrested for shoving a 74-year-old man to the ground during an argument about the 2016 election outside the Peninsula Hotel on Thursday night, an NYPD official said.
Shacara McLaurin, 23, had just performed with the Harlem Gospel Choir at the Plaza Hotel and was walking with another woman to the subway when she got into an argument with a man at the corner of West 55th Street and Fifth Avenue about 10:45 p.m., police and advocates said.
McLaurin told her attorney she had been followed for four blocks by the elderly man who used racial slurs to deride what he assumed was her support of Hillary Clinton.
The argument came to a head at East 55th Street and Fifth Avenue, a block from Trump Tower, police said.
McLaurin, who met the president-elect when she performed on a 2015 episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted, shoved the man to the ground, giving him a cut to the back of his head and "substantial pain," an NYPD spokesman said.
A video posted by a Black Lives Matter activist Thursday night purportedly shows the man standing against a wall as police shine a light in his face and tend to him.
The man, whose identity wasn't released, was treated at an area hospital, police said. His condition wasn't immediately clear.
Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, saw McLaurin being put into the NYPD squad car, he said.
"When we arrived she was getting placed into the car, screaming, 'Somebody call my family,'" Newsome said.
"She actually gave us the number to reach her family through the window of the car," he added.
McLaurin had never met Newsome and wasn't an active member of the Black Lives Matter, the activist said.
McLaurin was arraigned Friday afternoon on assault charges in Manhattan criminal court, where her attorney argued McLaurin's actions were defensive.
“My client was doing nothing more than protecting herself from another Trump bully,” said McLaurin’s attorney Victoria Brown."
McLaurin was released without bail, and refused to comment outside court following her release. But she later gave a press conference alongside her attorney outside the New York Marriott in Downtown Brooklyn Friday night in an effort to clear her name.
McLaurin said she has suffered abuse, and that her portrayal in the media has been misleading.
"People have been calling me all sorts of names, and portraying a story in the news that's just not who I am," she said. "I have respect not only for the elderly but for people my age and for all of God's people."
McLaurin declined to discuss specifics of the incident, but she denied ever attacking the man, and said instead that she was the victim of aggression.
"I do not promote violence and I never assaulted him," she said. "In fact I was the one who was assaulted."
McLaurin's uncle, Aldred Branch, 48, said his niece is a good person.
"She loves the Lord. She prays every day. She goes to church just about every day. She's singing around the world, gospel. She's an inspiring person," said Branch, a retired NYPD officer.
"She loves everybody. She's not about black. She's not about white. She's about love," Branch added.
McLaurin made headlines in 2011 when she was beaten up with a lock in a sock by a girl who was reportedly jealous of her singing prowess, the Daily News reported.
In the following years, she became an anti-bullying advocate and worked with STOMP Out Bullying, according to the organization's website.
According to McLaurin, the incident on Thursday and her subsequent arrest have been traumatizing due to her previous experience with violence.
"It brought me back to a place that I felt when I was bullied and brutally assaulted in 2011," she said. "It was a terrible feeling."
McLaurin has devoted her life to singing and performed for various choirs throughout her life which have repeatedly brought her across Trump's path, according to her family.
In 2015, she met Trump when the Harlem Gospel Choir performed with Sia during an episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted.
"Donald Trump, he shook her hand. He said, 'You have a very good voice, a very beautiful voice. You're a shining star,'" Branch said.
"He liked her. He genuinely liked her. He praised her. But when you meet Shacara, you will praise her. That's the type of personality she has, a loving, caring personality," Branch added.
The founder of the Harlem Gospel Choir didn't immediately return a request for comment. The group's manager declined to comment.
McLaughlin is due back in court on Jan. 5.