President Donald Trump, who uses hate as a political tool to stroke support with his angry base, ventured into anger Tuesday with a hastily planned visit to grieving Pittsburgh, where an avowed anti-Semite killed 11 worshipers at a synagogue and left others wounded Saturday morning.
Absent from Trump’s entourage were members of congress or local politicians. Many declined to appear with him and others from “the other party” didn’t get invitations.
Protests in the mostly Democratic city greeted Trump while social media and talk radio phone lines spewed out angry comments about Trump and his visit.
“The sense in the community is that they didn’t think this was a time for a political photo shoot,” said Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle, who represents the Squirrel Hill neighborhood where the synagogue sits.
Relatives of one victim refused to meet with Trump, saying his visit and his rhetoric are “inappropriate.” Trump’s suggestion that the synagogue should have had an armed guard angered them and many others.
“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” said Stephen Halle, nephew of victim of Daniel Stein, 71. “He was blaming the community.”
“It was just a worthless thing to say,” Halle added. “When something tragic has happened, you don’t kick people when they are down. There should have been an apology.”
Republican and Democratic congressional leaders declined to come with Trump.
Tens of thousands of people signed an open letter from a Pittsburgh jewish group that said Trump was not welcome in their city “until you fully denounce white nationalism” and “cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.”
“This didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Ardon Shorr, who helped organize protest against the president’s visit, told The Washington Post. “There is a growing trend of white nationalism. And that has been enabled by Trump, who traffics in the kind of conspiracy theories that we know were foremost in the mind of the shooter last Saturday.”
Others criticized Trump for not canceling a campaign rally in Murphysboro, IL, right after the shootings, and some 2,000 marchers protested his actions, waving signs that said “Words matter” and “President Hate is not welcome in our state.”
“He refused to cancel his rally when it would have been the decent thing to cancel the rally,” said Jonathan Sarney, 72, referring to Trump’s campaign stop in Murphysboro. “And now he’s coming to intrude on the funerals when it’s an indecent thing to do.”
Julia Santucci, a senior lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh, says Trump’s “fear mongering” is what he does.
“You’re fomenting a type of hatred that others take too far,” she added.
Many Pittsburgh residents we talked to this week said Trump and his followers bear “culpability” with his “build the wall” rallies that promotes what they feel is one of the worst tragedies in the city’s history.
“His coming here is not an empathetic move, it’s a power move,” said Sherri Suppa, a special education teacher. “It’s the last thing the community needs.”
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