The president was greeted at the airport by the city’s mayor and other officials. His motorcade passed two recreational vehicles adorned with pro-Trump signs and flags as well as one man standing outside of a store advertising survival supplies with a sign that appeared to object to so-called red-flag laws that prevent people with mental illness from getting guns: “Red Flag is Dystopic Future.”
He planned to visit El Paso, Texas, later in the day.
Protesters gather in Dayton as Trump arrives.
Protesters gathered in Dayton to greet Trump, waving signs that said “Dump Trump” and “Do Something!” The protesters were met by demonstrators who waved competing signs supportive of Trump.
The main protest of about a hundred people materialized along a stretch of South Main Street, in a grassy field a few blocks from the hospital where Trump was visiting some of the shooting victims.
Michael Prince, 55 — burly, tattooed and bushy-bearded — stood next to Jim Madewell, 71 — burly, tattooed and bushy-bearded — and watched the scene.
“I want to give him the finger,” said Madewell, a retired printing press foreman who said he lives a 100 yards from the house where the Dayton shooter lived.
Madewell said he believed Trump’s language “throws gasoline on the fire,” and that leads to violence. “He feeds on negativity and hate and fear,” Madewell said.
In Dayton’s Oregon District, a politically mixed crowd had gathered by late morning. At one point, a chant of “Do something!” broke out, the same message that drowned out the state’s Republican governor during a Sunday night vigil.
Ken Williams, a Dayton area resident, said he had been planning to visit the Oregon District at the time of the shooting before a last-minute change of plans. Though he does not support Trump, Williams said he was hoping the president might stop to speak with him and others who had gathered.
“Are you going to listen to what we have to say?” Williams asked. “Are you going to respond to what we have to say? Or are you going to blow us off?”
As noon approached, the crowd in the Oregon District began to thin. At one point, a few supporters of the president started chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump.” Across the street, another woman yelled, “Trump for impeachment.”
But mostly, people just stood on the sidewalk, waiting for a motorcade that did not seem likely to come. Maj. Wendy Stiver of the city Police Department eventually told demonstrators that the president was not going to stop by.
Trump attacks his critics on Twitter before visiting cities in mourning.
Trump began a day set aside for healing by delivering a series of political grievances against liberals and the media, once again using Twitter to exhibit the divisive language that has prompted some in El Paso and Dayton to protest his visits after horrific shootings in those cities.
The president’s press secretary said Trump planned to honor victims, comfort families and thank emergency workers “for their heroic actions.”
That wasn’t the message that Trump wanted to deliver Wednesday morning as he ignored calls from community leaders and residents to stay away. Around midnight, he attacked Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate, on Twitter, mocking him for having a “phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage” and boasting that he “trounced him” when Trump held a rally in El Paso in February.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump quoted a conservative television news outlet’s reporting that “the Dayton, Ohio, shooter had a history of supporting political figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.”
But the president’s Twitter outbursts underscored the complaints of O’Rourke and others who have said Trump was not welcome in their communities because his presence would inflame tensions rather than soothe them. If the president has heard those complaints, he declined to change the combative tone he has embraced since the earliest days of his presidency.
On Monday, Trump delivered a short speech from a teleprompter in which he condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” and said that “hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
Before he departed Wednesday, he dismissed criticism about his use of divisive language. “I think my rhetoric brings people together,” he said. “Our country is doing really well.”
It is unclear which president will assert himself in Dayton and El Paso — a healer in chief who brings a disciplined embrace of consolation and a rejection of hate or a politically divisive chief executive who has spent years railing about the dangers from immigrants in the country illegally and stoking fear to rally his supporters.
Before leaving, he lashed out at the mayor of Dayton, calling her a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and of antifa, a radical leftist group. The president also rejected calls to abandon the way he talks about immigrants, saying that “illegal immigration is a terrible thing for this country” and insisting that “we have very many people coming in. They are pouring in to this country.”
Trump also used language that echoed his “both sides” comments after the neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, saying Wednesday that “I’m concerned about the rise of any type of hate. I don’t like it. Any type of supremacy, whether it’s white supremacy or antifa.”
White House invites tech companies to discussion on ‘violent extremism.’
The White House will host an event with tech companies Friday aimed at discussing how to eradicate violent behavior online, but the president may not be in attendance.
“The White House has invited internet and technology companies for a discussion on violent extremism online,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement, adding that senior administration officials and “representatives of a range of companies” would participate.
He did not say which companies or officials would attend but said that it was a “staff-led” meeting. Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment about the meeting.
A person familiar with the event said that administration officials would be focused on violent behavior and not hate speech. In recent days, Trump has defended himself against widespread scrutiny over the effect his divisive rhetoric has on white supremacists and other extremists online.
The meeting highlights a growing discontent in Washington with technology companies. The White House and other Republicans have accused technology platforms — namely Google, Facebook and Twitter — of tilting the playing field against conservatives. The companies have repeatedly denied that is the case.
The giant technology platforms have also come under greater scrutiny for not doing enough to stamp out extremist and hateful content on their sites, while also failing to prevent the spread of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.
Biden accuses Trump of ‘hate, racism and division.’
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday prepared to ratchet up his criticism of Trump after the El Paso massacre carried out by a suspect who authorities say wrote a white supremacist screed.
“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden will say, according to excerpts from remarks he planned to make in Burlington, Iowa.
“We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation,” Biden will say. He will also say that Trump “offers no moral leadership,” has “no interest in unifying the nation” and that there is “no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.”
“Instead,” Biden will say, “we have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism and division.”
At the White House, Trump was asked to respond to another comment by Biden in which he said the president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington.
“Well, Joe is a pretty incompetent guy,” Trump said. “I’ve watched his interviews. I’ve watched what he said and how he said it. And I wouldn’t have rated him very high in the first place. But Joe Biden has truly lost his fastball, that I could tell you.”
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., another candidate vying for the 2020 nomination, spoke Wednesday morning at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white supremacist killed nine people in 2015.
Booker urged Americans to embrace “courageous love” and appeared to choke up as he read the names of those who had died in the shooting four years ago.
“It’s with faith in God, in one another, and in who we can be that we come here together today,” he said, “not because of hate, but because of love.”
Democrats say ‘red flag’ laws will not be enough.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, said Wednesday that Democrats would insist that legislation to encourage states to adopt so-called “red flag laws” as a response to gun violence be accompanied by a House bill requiring background checks on all gun purchasers.
Red flag laws allow authorities to obtain a special type of protective order — known as an extreme risk protection order, or ERPO — to remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Republicans, including Trump, are embracing the concept, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is drafting a bill to develop a federal grant program to help states pass and implement such laws.
“We Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side,” Schumer said. “Democrats in the Senate will seek to require that any ERPO bill that comes to the floor is accompanied by a vote on the House-passed universal background checks legislation.”
Trump told reporters he was open to expanding background checks for gun purchases. But Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, has blocked consideration of the House bills.
The gunman’s motive in Dayton may not be tied to politics, authorities say.
Although the FBI is investigating “violent ideologies” that the Dayton gunman was exploring, authorities have said there was no evidence that his rampage had anything to do with his political views, which his friends have described as far-left.
The gunman, Connor Betts, who was killed by police, espoused leftist views online and in conversations with friends, promoting socialism and the idea that liberals should own guns. And a Twitter account that is believed to be his but has not been confirmed by authorities showed support for antifa, the loose group of people who call themselves “anti-fascists” and often believe that violence against people they view as “fascists” is justified.
In the wake of the mass shooting that killed nine and wounded more than two dozen others, conservatives have pointed out that the Twitter account that may be associated with the gunman also expressed support for Sanders and Warren, sharing one post that said they were the only two acceptable candidates in the race for president.
Earlier this week, a federal law enforcement official said the FBI was looking at whether the gunman was associated with incel, or involuntary celibate, groups, which are generally made up of misogynists who disparage women online, in part for refusing to have sex with them.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.