President Trump is scheduled to visit El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday, two cities grieving after separate mass shootings killed at least 31 people over the weekend.
The visits are a “terrific opportunity to congratulate” local police and law enforcement, Trump told reporters as he left the White House.
The president’s visits, however, have created an atmosphere of angst, with some residents and lawmakers in both cities condemning Trump’s refusal to support stricter gun control measures and his divisive leadership.
“His rhetoric has been painful for many in our community and I think the people should stand up and say they’re not happy, if they’re not happy that he is coming,” Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, a Democrat, told reporters on Tuesday.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman killed nine people, including his younger sister, in an entertainment district of the western Ohio city.
The mood is also unnerved in El Paso, where at least 22 people were killed on Saturday by a white supremacist terrorist at a Walmart. In a racist manifesto believed to be from the suspect, which mirrored rhetoric used by Trump when speaking about immigrants, the shooter said he was specifically targeting Hispanics to stop their "invasion of Texas."
“I think my rhetoric brings people together,” Trump said on Wednesday in response to a question about the gunman parroting his language, adding that he is concerned about hate groups, “whether it’s white supremacy or any other kind of supremacy."
The Republican Mayor of El Paso, Dee Margo, said on Tuesday that he did not want Trump's visit to become political, but that he would "challenge any harmful and inaccurate statements" made about the city. Margo publically challenged the president after a February rally in El Paso where Trump said that murders committed by undocumented immigrants plagued the city.
Democratic state Rep. César Blanco, who represents El Paso in Austin, told Cheddar earlier this week that Trump’s “hateful anti-Latino, anti-immigrant” rhetoric created the fraught atmosphere at the border that led to the Walmart shooting.
“Everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people together, and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart. That is up to the president of the United States,” Whaley added on Tuesday.
This is a developing story and will be updated.