WEST BEND (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a rally in West Bend on Tuesday delivered his most aggressive call yet to woo African-American voters, vowing to restore law and order, only days after a fatal police shooting of a black man in Milwaukee sparked more street violence.
Trump accused his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton of “bigotry” and vowed to protect the jobs of minorities from immigrants. Trump has been repeatedly called a “bigot” by his Democratic opponents.
“I’m asking for the vote for every African-American citizen struggling in our society today who wants a different and much better future,” Trump said. “Jobs, safety, opportunity, fair and equal representation: We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton which panders to, and talks down to, communities of color and sees them only as votes – that’s all they care about – not as individual human beings worthy of a better future.”
Earlier, Trump held three events in Milwaukee, a city still reeling from violent protests after the death of Sylville Smith, 23. Authorities said Smith was stopped for acting suspiciously and was shot by police because he was carrying a handgun and refused orders to drop it. Following the police shooting death of Smith, violent protests on Saturday night resulted in several businesses being burned. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals responsible for the fires. On Sunday, police were the targets of violent unrest.
Trump encountered only a handful of peaceful protesters while in the city, including some at a closed fundraiser.
He held a brief meeting with veterans and law enforcement, including Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Inspector Edward Bailey. But news media representatives were escorted out and not permitted to hear the discussions.
Clarke has criticized the protests in Milwaukee, writing in an opinion piece for The Hill that they were “a collapse of the social order, where tribal behavior leads to reacting to circumstances instead of waiting for facts to emerge.”
Trump also taped a town hall meeting with Fox News, in which he blamed President Barack Obama for what he sees as hostility toward police. “He has not been good to the police, simply, and the police are not big fans of his,” Trump said.
Trump traveled 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee, which is 40 percent black, to deliver his appeal to African-American voters in West Bend, a community that is 95 percent white. He spoke before an almost entirely white audience.
“A vote for her (Clinton) is a vote for another generation of poverty, high crime and lost opportunities,” Trump said. “Crime and violence is an attack on the poor and it will never be accepted in a Trump administration.”
Clinton won the Democratic nomination in part thanks to her large victory margins among minorities in nearly every state, including overwhelming support from African-Americans in the South.
“With each passing Trump attack, it becomes clearer that his strategy is just to say about Hillary Clinton what’s true of himself,” Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said. “When people started saying he was temperamentally unfit, he called Hillary the same. When his ties to the Kremlin came under scrutiny, he absurdly claimed that Hillary was the one who was too close to Putin. Now he’s accusing her of bigoted remarks – we think the American people will know which candidate is guilty of the charge.”
Trump also took aim at Clinton’s past acceptance of large speaking fees, saying he would force top administration officials to sign a pledge not to accept speaking fees from corporations with registered lobbyists or foreign countries for five years after leaving office.
Police violence against African-Americans has set off intermittent, sometimes violent protests in the past two years, igniting a national debate over race and policing in the United States and giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump said critics of the police “share in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and other places in our country.”
“The war on our police must end and it must end now,” Trump said. “The war on police is a war against all peaceful citizens.”
The shooting of Smith was likely justified, Trump argued in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday morning.
“But the gun was pointed at his (a police officer’s) head, supposedly ready to be fired. Who can have a problem with that? That’s what the narrative is,” Trump said. “Maybe it’s not true. If it is true, people shouldn’t be rioting.”