DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign says at least two protesters upset about the Republican presidential candidate’s remarks in opposition to aid for Ukraine purposely rammed his car in Iowa in retaliation on Thursday, but police say there is no evidence to support the claim that the crash was intentional.
The police account of the crash in the central Iowa city of Grinnell sharply diverged from the story told earlier by Ramaswamy’s campaign, which contended that protesters yelled and swore at the candidate before at least one of them jumped into a vehicle, rammed his empty campaign car and sped off.
The campaign said that no one was injured and that it had filed a police report.
Police say they were dispatched to a coffee shop in the city shortly after 1 p.m. for a report of property damage. While there, they contacted a 22-year-old woman who reported that she had just eaten lunch at a nearby deli and was backing her car out of her parking spot when she accidentally struck a Ford Expedition that was across the street.
Police say the woman told them she was not there protesting anything, had no idea whose vehicle she had hit, did not intentionally cause the crash and did not flee the scene. Police say there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that protesters intentionally hit Ramaswamy’s campaign vehicle and sped off.
Both vehicles had minor damage, police said, and the woman received a traffic summons for unsafe backing.
Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin told The Associated Press that the campaign stands by its assessment that the driver was a protester. She also stood by her assessment that there were two people in the car that hit the campaign car.
“I’m confident of what happened. I was there,” McLaughlin said.
A woman in Grinnell with the same name as the driver did not immediately respond to a message sent Thursday evening by The Associated Press seeking comment.
Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur and the author of “Woke, Inc.,” was in Grinnell for a scheduled interview with Des Moines’ local CBS News affiliate before heading to Des Moines to host a fall-themed, family campaign event. Campaign aides said Ramaswamy planned to go ahead with the event.
The candidate travels with some private security, but aides declined to elaborate. He does not have a Secret Service detail.
McLaughlin told the AP earlier in the day in a text message, “Prior to the protestors ramming their car they continually laid on the horn, flipped staff off and screamed expletives (it appeared in efforts to create commotion.)”
She continued: “It seemed like the protestor couldn’t stay at the event or didn’t want to and wanted to make a statement. (Though I can’t assign motivations.) The driver began to drive off but stopped suddenly after staffers chased after to get insurance information.”
Ramaswamy described the crash in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Had a civil exchange with protestors today, right before two of them then got into their car & rammed it into ours,” he wrote. “Those two should be held accountable, but the rest of the peaceful protestors shouldn’t be tarred by the behavior of two bad actors.”
Ramaswamy later sent out a fundraising email with details of the crash, asking supporters to “stand for free speech” and help out his campaign.
Grinnell, a small city east of Des Moines, is home to Grinnell College, a small liberal arts school with an enrollment of about 1,700 in Poweshiek County.
Ramaswamy is not the first candidate whose car has been hit while campaigning this election season.
In July, his rival Ron DeSantis was involved in a multicar accident near Chattanooga, Tennessee, en route to a campaign event. The Florida governor was uninjured when traffic on Interstate 75 slowed quickly during busy morning drive time, causing a chain reaction of state-owned vehicles.
Beck contributed from Omaha, Neb. Associated Press writer Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami contributed to this report.