President Donald Trump will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the White House confirmed today.
However, some here are calling for him to stay away, saying that rhetoric from him and his administration is partly responsible for incidents including Saturday’s shooting that left 11 dead and six injured.
“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us,” reads an open letter from the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. The group’s website calls on readers to “be part of the Jewish resistance.”
That letter asking Trump to “fully denounce white nationalism” had gathered more than 36,000 signatures as of 3 p.m., with an updated goal of 60,000.
Trump has called the shooting a “wicked act of mass murder” and “pure evil.” He has also said armed security at the synagogue could have prevented the shooting while continuing to point fingers of blame at the media.
Mayor Bill Peduto asked that Trump wait to visit until after the dead are buried, the Post-Gazette reported.
Funerals for two victims are set to take place Tuesday. The White House says Trump plans to visit to “grieve with the families.”
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers who was in the synagogue when the shooting took place was asked if he would welcome Trump.
“I am a citizen and he is my president,” Myers said, responding in the affirmative. Myers also urged politicians to help stem the tide of hate speech in a vigil on Sunday.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it has to start with you as our leaders,” Myers said Sunday. “If it comes from you Americans will listen.”
Past president of Tree of Life synagogue Lynnette Lederman felt differently about Trump coming here, telling CNN, “I do not welcome this President to my city.” Lederman went on to call Trump “the purveyor of hate speech.”
The Bend the Arc letter blames the president for a climate that enabled and encouraged Saturday’s shooting.
“The past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the letter reads. “You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.”
It continues: “The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.”
A second letter posted by IfNotNow Pittsburgh, an American Jewish progressive activist group, blamed the rhetoric of Trump and Republican leaders for such violence. “As young American Jews taking responsibility for the future of our community, we refuse to mince words: The blood spilled is a result of white supremacy.”
According to a PRRI survey released today, “54 percent of Americans feel President Trump’s decisions and behavior have encouraged white supremacist groups, compared to 39 percent who say Trump’s behavior has had no effect and five percent who say he has discouraged these groups.“