‘It’s your fault’: Protests greet Donald Trump as he visits Pittsburgh after synagogue shooting
U.S. President Donald Trump was met with protests as he visited Pittsburgh, Pa. on Tuesday — despite widespread advice not to go.
Trump, along with his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, arrived in Pittsburgh before 4 p.m. ET.
The Trumps first paid a visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue, where 11 worshipers were gunned down and six people injured by suspected gunman Robert Bowers on Saturday.
They were greeted by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them inside the temple. Emerging about 18 minutes later, the president went to a memorial outside the building, where the first lady placed a flower and the president placed a small stone on a marker for each of the shooting victims.
About a block and a half away, protesters shouted “Leave Pittsburgh, leave Pennsylvania.”
WATCH: Donald Trump, Melania visit memorial for Pittsburgh synagogue shooting victims
The presidential motorcade then made its way to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where Trump and Melania were to visit with victims of the shooting.
As the motorcade rolled up, it was met with hundreds protesters and a sign that said, “It’s your fault.”
There also were signs that read “Trump Go Home” and “Words matter,” a reference to critics who have accused the president of using rhetoric that has widened the partisan divide in the country.
As Trump drove away, protesters chanted, “Make America peaceful again.”
Many in Pittsburgh used the presidential visit to criticize Trump’s partisan rhetoric, which they claim is leading to violence.
Stephen Halle, a nephew of victim Daniel Stein, declined a meeting with Trump due to his “inappropriate” reaction to the shooting — specifically Trump’s call to have armed guards at the synagogue.
“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” Halle told the Washington Post.
“A church, a synagogue, should not be a fortress. It should be an open welcoming place to feel safe.”
Stein’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday.
WATCH: Funerals begin for Pittsburgh synagogue victims
More than 1,800 people, some from across the United States, came to pay respects to relatives of David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, at Rodef Shalom, another synagogue in the Squirrel Hill district that forms the heart of the city’s Jewish community. Police officers were posted outside the temple.
The two brothers lived at a home for people with disabilities.
Shooting survivor Barry Werber wasn’t keen on a visit from a president who has embraced the politically fraught term “nationalist.” Some have accused the president of helping to create the corrosive political atmosphere that may have led to the violence.
“He’s calling himself a nationalist. The last political group that I heard had called themselves nationalists were the Nazis,” Werber, 76, told the Associated Press.
“He didn’t pull the trigger, but his verbiage and actions don’t help,” said Squirrel Hill resident Paul Carberry, 55, wearing anti-Trump patches on his hat and jacket.
Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum reportedly declined invitations to visit Pittsburgh with Trump, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, according to CNN and the Washington Post.
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Pittsburgh’s mayor Bill Peduto said Trump should wait until the funerals are complete before visiting the city.
“If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead,” Peduto said Monday night. “Our attention and our focus is going to be on them, and we don’t have public safety that we can take away from what is needed in order to do both.”
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More than 70,000 people have signed an open letter to Trump from the leaders of a Pittsburgh-based Jewish group who say the president will not be welcome in the city unless he denounces white nationalism and stops “targeting” minorities.
But Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was conducting Sabbath services at the Tree of Life synagogue when the shooter opened fire, made clear the president would be welcome, telling CNN: “The president of the United States is always welcome. I am a citizen. He is my president. He is certainly welcome.”
Trump himself said he was going to use the visit to pay respects to the victims.
“Well, I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham Monday night. “I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt.”
WATCH: New York mayor says centres of worship no place for ‘armed guards’
Shulamit Bastacky, 77, a Holocaust survivor and neighbour of victim Melvin Wax, expressed hope that fraught political issues and protests would not overshadow the remembrances.
“This is not the place to do it,” she said. “You can do the political part everywhere else. Not at this time. This would be like desecrating those people who were killed. They were murdered because they were Jews.”
“You can protest later on,” she added. “To me, it’s sacred what happened here.”
WATCH: Friends and family attend funeral for brothers killed in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
Asked if Trump had done enough to condemn white nationalism, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president “has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions.”
White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, back in Washington, told reporters: “If people are there to protest, that’s their right. For the president, it was not a moment for politics.”
— with files from the Associated Press and Reuters
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