WASHINGTON – Besieged by calls to tighten weapons possession laws and halt anti-immigrant and racist discourse, President Donald Trump visited on Wednesday Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, two cities that suffered mass shootings last weekend.
Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, met with people wounded in the shootings and with relatives of the massacre victims in Dayton, where last Sunday nine people died before law enforcement personnel killed the attacker, and in El Paso, where the day before a gunman killed 22 people and wounded 26 before being captured by police.
The president, who before leaving Washington claimed that his anti-immigrant rhetoric had not contributed to the shootings and, in fact, “brings people together,” was dogged by the demands of demonstrators who gathered outside the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where several of those wounded in the shooting there are recovering.
“Dayton strong,” “Action now” and “No more hate” chanted protesters carrying signs demanding that the president “Do something” about tightening gun laws.
Another sign with a “Baby Trump” balloon attached demanded that Trump “stop being a baby” and confront the National Rifle Association, which promotes gun ownership and sales.
The president, who was in Dayton for a little less than three hours, later posted photos and a video of his visit to the hospital, where he said he had met “incredible” people.”
The photos and video show Trump and his wife meeting with patients, medical personnel and police.
“It was a warm & wonderful visit. Tremendous enthusiasm & even Love,” said Trump on Twitter, going on to call the later press conference held by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown a “fraud” where they had “misrepresented” what happened during his hospital visit.
Whaley told reporters that she and Brown had told the president about the “importance” of taking action on gun control, saying that Dayton residents want action from Washington.
The demands for him to take action to curb gun violence were also made against Trump in El Paso, where demonstrators gathered at several points but particularly at the mall where 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, considered to be a white supremacist, targeted Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart.
“You’re not welcome here,” “We want an apology,” “Trump is a racist, white supremacist” read some of the signs displayed by protesters in El Paso, amid both Mexican and US flags.
The executive director for Border Network for Human Rights, Fernando Garcia, told EFE that the demonstrators in El Paso had two messages for Trump: first, “we are proud of who we are ... a community of immigrants and Hispanics ... and we’ll continue (opening our doors to immigrants)” and second, the president “is not welcome in this community” because of “his racist rhetoric, his policy of hate toward immigrants.”
Before going on his rampage, the El Paso shooter allegedly published a manifesto online in which he used arguments Trump has used against immigrants, decrying the “invasion” of the US by Hispanics.
The Dayton massacre seems to have been unconnected to Trump’s political rhetoric.