The U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that he was going to Pittsburgh to ‘pay respect’ to the victims, who responded by saying he was not welcome due to his hateful rhetoric.
“Well, I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham. “I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt.”
Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, including the former president of the Tree of Life synagogue that was targeted in Saturday's deadly shooting which left 11 dead, said the U.S. President Donald Trump is not welcome in the city because of his rhetoric against minorities.
The White House said the purpose of Trump’s visit was to “express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community.”
Behind the Arc, which describes itself as a movement for progressive Jews, published a letter which reiterated that Trump would not be welcome until he distanced himself from white supremacists.
"For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement," the letter read, addressing the US leader directly. "You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s [Saturday's] violence is the direct culmination of your influence."
The group said Trump had "undermined the safety" of Muslims, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and those with disabilities. "Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country,” said the letter.
At 10:00 Saturday morning, during Shabbat services, Robert Bowers, 46, entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and opened fire.
He had blamed a Jewish organization, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) for helping bring immigrants to the United States. He said HIAS was bringing "invaders" into the country, in posts he made on Gab, a social media network that serves as a sanctuary for far-right activists barred from other sites. He also criticized the president for not hating Jews strongly enough.
The president was also criticized for saying that the synagogue should have had an armed guard. "If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him," the president said just hours after the incident.
Trump also called for the death penalty, and he said the shooting looks "definitely like it's an anti-Semitic crime, and that is something you wouldn't believe could still be going on".
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, the Tree of Life's spiritual leader who survived the attack, told NBC that he would welcome a visit from Trump, but that "we turn to leaders of our country, and we've gotta stop hate ... we need to act to tone down the rhetoric".
People across the country have been holding vigils in memory of the victims and to show their solidarity with the survivors. The Muslim-American community has also been crowdfunding to raise money for Pittsburgh victims.