FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ – A 19-year-old township resident has been arrested and charged with assaulting an 81-year-old man wearing a “Make American Great Again” hat while shopping at the ShopRite supermarket on Elizabeth Avenue on Monday.

Ryan M. Salvagno, 19 of Amwell Road has been charged with assault, a disorderly person’s offense and harassment, a petty disorderly person’s offense. The charges were were filed in the Franklin Township Municipal Court.  Salvagno is scheduled for arraignment on March 14, according to Somerset County Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson.

Robertson provided the following account of the incident:

Sign Up for E-News

Franklin police received a call at 3:24 p.m. Monday reporting a dispute at the store. Police found the 81-year old victim suffering from minor injuries.

He told police that after purchasing his groceries and exiting the store, he was confronted by a male, later identified as Salvagno, regarding his “Make America Great Again” hat.  A brief verbal confrontation ensued, after which the victim attempted to leave the area.

As the victim turned to walk away, Salvagno was able to grab the victim’s hat and the two struggled for sole possession of the hat. Salvagno then took the victim by the arm and threw him to the ground, tipping over the victim’s cart of groceries and ultimately throwing the hat to the side. 

After conducting an investigation, law enforcement officers were able to positively identify defendant Salvagno as the person who confronted the victim.

The victim declined medical treatment.

The "Make America Great Again" hat is a trademark of President Donald Trump, who began wearing the embroidered hats at rallies during his successful 2016 presidential campaign; the hats were sold to raise money for the campaign, and continue to be sold and worn by his supporters. 

There have been dozens of other assaults nationwide in connection with people wearing the “Make America Great Again” hats.

Robertson asks that anyone with information on the incident to contact the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at (908) 231-7100, or the Franklin Township Police Department at (732) 873-5533 or via the STOPit app.

 The STOPit app allows citizens to provide anonymous reports including videos and photos. STOPit can be downloaded to your smart phone for free at the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, access code: SOMERSETNJ.

 Information can also be provided through the Somerset County Crime Stoppers’ Tip Line at 1-888-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.888577tips.org or at www.scpo.net and click on either “Crime Stoppers” or “TIPS HOTLINE”. All anonymous Crime Stopper tips will be kept confidential.