President Trump and his family visited Pittsburgh with Israel’s US envoy to honor the victims of Saturday’s synagogue shooting. They were met with massive protests and even congressional leaders declined to join them on the trip.
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The president and his family flew to Pittsburgh to pay their respects to the dead, accompanied by Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer. No congressional leaders were willing to join the Trumps on the trip, after Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto suggested they postpone their visit.
Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood left 11 dead and six wounded. The attacker, Robert Bowers, allegedly uttered anti-Semitic slurs and made reference to genocide as he opened fire. The Anti-Defamation League called it the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.
The city’s resources were stretched thin attempting to provide security for both the presidential visit and the funerals, and Mayor Peduto asked Trump to wait until after the victims were buried to pay his respects but, faced with a packed rally schedule leading up to an election in which he’s not actually running, Trump opted to do what was best for Trump.
A crowd of protesters estimated at 2,000 and organized by Jewish groups IfNotNow and Bend the Arc massed in Squirrel Hill, marching behind a series of banners demanding the president ‘fully denounce white nationalism’ – something of a non-sequitur, given that the shooter had expressed his antipathy toward Trump as well as his hatred for Jews in social media posts – and end policies that target minorities, immigrants and refugees. The streets were also full of mourners waiting to get into three of the victims’ funerals.
Not everyone in Pittsburgh was upset to see Trump. Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who was conducting Shabbat services at the time of the attack, welcomed the president’s visit, ushering the Trumps and Dermer into the synagogue to light candles for the dead. Trump also visited first responders and met with Peg Durachko Gottfried, the widow of one of the victims.
🎼“We are rising up, like a Phoenix from the fire.
“So, #Pittsburgh, spread your wings and fly higher.”
— Natasha Lindstrom (@NewsNatasha) October 30, 2018
Opportunists on both sides wasted no time politicizing the shooting. Trump suggested an armed guard could have saved the worshipers, while Democrats blamed the president’s “dog-whistle rhetoric” for inciting anti-Semitic violence and Republicans scrambled to ask for the death penalty for Bowers. Nor was the opportunism confined to the US – Israeli Labor party leader Avi Gabbay crassly used the tragedy to illustrate why US Jews should move to Israel.
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