October 31, 2018 11:47:26
United States President Donald Trump, shrugging off objections from some that he was unwelcome, has offered condolences at the Pittsburgh synagogue where 11 Jewish worshipers were shot dead.
- Donald and Melania Trump went inside the temple where the shooting took place
- Thousands of protesters marched against the President’s visit
- The trip comes as the first funerals are held for victims of the shooting
Mr Trump, who opponents say has stoked a toxic political climate conducive to acts of violence, paid a brief visit to the Tree of Life temple, the scene of Saturday’s attack, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump.
His visit came as thousands of mourners attended the first funerals for victims of the massacre.
Mr Trump and the first lady were greeted by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them inside the temple.
Visiting a memorial outside the temple around 20 minutes later, the first lady placed a flower and the President placed a small stone on a marker for each of the shooting victims.
Mr Trump also planned to visit hospitalised police officers and other people wounded in Saturday’s gun violence.
About 2,000 people, many of them members of Pittsburgh’s tight-knit Jewish community, held a protest march against Mr Trump as his visit began, chanting, “Words have meaning”, and carrying signs with such slogans as “We build bridges not walls”.
Also joining Mr Trump on his trip to Pennsylvania’s second-largest city were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, his daughter and son-in-law, who are Jewish and serve as White House advisers.
Mr Trump’s visit came just seven days before elections that will determine whether his Republican Party will maintain its control in both houses of Congress or whether the Democrats will seize a majority in one chamber or both.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, told reporters before the visit was announced that the White House ought to consult with the families of the victims about their preferences and asked that the President not come during a funeral.
Neither he nor Democrat Governor Tom Wolf appeared with Mr Trump.
Beth Melena, campaign spokeswoman for Mr Wolf, said the Governor based his decision to stay away on input from the victims’ families, who told him they did not want the President to be there on the day their loved ones were being buried.
As Mr Trump’s motorcade wound through downtown Pittsburgh, some onlookers saluted the President with upraised middle fingers and others with downturned thumbs.
The White House had invited the top four congressional leaders to join Mr Trump in Pennsylvania, but none accompanied him.
Thousands attend first funerals for victims
The first funerals for the victims of the attack also were held on Tuesday.
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, who lived at a home for people with disabilities, were among the 11 mostly elderly congregants killed when a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue and opened fire on worshipers, yelling, “All Jews must die”.
Services were also held for Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old family physician, and retiree Daniel Stein, 71.
The crowd of about 2,000 at Rabinowitz’s funeral included nurses dressed in their surgical scrubs.
The accused gunman, Robert Bowers, 46, was arrested after he was wounded in a shootout with police.
He has been charged with 29 federal felony counts, including hate crimes, and could face the death penalty if convicted.
The attack — which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described as the deadliest targeting Jews in US history — has heightened a national debate over Mr Trump’s rhetoric, which critics say has contributed to a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity.
The Trump administration has rejected the notion that he has encouraged far-right extremists who have embraced him.
Asked on Monday if Mr 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”.
October 31, 2018 10:29:33