Trump visits Dayton and El Paso – US mass shootings
US President Donald Trump has visited emergency workers and survivors of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas – one of two cities shaken by gun attacks that took 31 lives.
Hispanic people were targeted in an apparent hate crime when a gunman in El Paso shot dead 22 people on Saturday.
Trump himself has been accused of stoking hatred against Hispanic people.
He came to Texas from Dayton, Ohio, where he had visited survivors of a shooting in which nine people died.
Trump said before leaving Washington that he was concerned about “the rise of any group of hate… whether it’s white supremacy” or any “other kind of supremacy”.
But the Democratic congresswoman who represents El Paso, Veronica Escobar, refused to meet him, saying his “racist and hateful words & actions” had caused pain to her community and her country.
The El Paso shooting is being treated as a possible hate crime. Much of the city identifies as Hispanic and the suspect is thought to be the author of a text posted online which said “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
The text echoed some of the US president’s language, with Trump having frequently used the term “invasion” to describe the situation on the US-Mexico border. Police have still to establish a conclusive motive for the Dayton attack but say they have uncovered evidence “that the shooter was exploring violent ideologies”.
Attempts by Trump and others to link the shootings to mental illness have been criticised by healthcare professionals.
On Wednesday, the president said he did not “want guns in the hands of sick people” and was “looking to do background checks”.
What was the mood in El Paso?
Trump and his wife Melania were met at the airport by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and El Paso Mayor Dee Margo before being driven away.
They spent more than an hour at the city’s University Medical Center talking with staff and victims before travelling to the city’s emergency operations centre.
Some protesters along the route held placards reading “Go home. You are NOT welcome here!” and “Trump hatred, racism not welcome here”.
In comments near the end of the visit Trump said he’d had an “amazing day”.
“As you know we left Ohio and the love, the respect, for the office of the presidency, it was, I wish you could have been in there to see it,” he said.
In the city, Escobar and Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke attended an “El Paso Strong” rally, where O’Rourke said the president was “vilifying” immigrants.
Earlier, O’Rourke – an El Paso native – accused Trump of “inspiring” the attack in the city through his “racism”.
As the president was travelling to El Paso Joe Biden, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential ticket, also attacked Trump, accusing him of fanning “the flames of white supremacy”.