Rare restraint in political reaction after police shootings
WASHINGTON (AP) — In this heated and deeply divisive campaign year, America's presidential candidates — as well as other politicians — responded to the killings of five police officers and two black men with striking reflection and restraint.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quickly scrapped political events Friday, hours after the officers were killed in Dallas during a protest over the fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. Clinton was going forward with a late afternoon appearance at the African Methodist Episcopal Convention in Philadelphia, where she planned to address the violence.
The presumptive Democratic nominee wrote on Twitter that she mourned for the officers "shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters." Clinton had previously condemned the shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul, saying, "Something is profoundly wrong when so many Americans have reason to believe that our country doesn't consider them as precious because of the color of their skin."
Trump canceled a speech in Miami on Hispanic issues. He instead released a lengthy statement calling the shootings in Dallas "a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe." He called Sterling and Castile's deaths "senseless" and a reminder of how much more needs to be done to ensure Americans feel safe in their communities.
Sterling was shot Tuesday after being pinned to the pavement by two white officers, an altercation that was captured on cellphone video. The following day, Castile was fatally shot in a car by a Minnesota officer, with the aftermath livestreamed on Facebook by his girlfriend.
Hundreds of people gathered in Dallas to protest the killings Thursday night when a single gunman opened fire, killing five police officers and injuring seven others. Two civilians were also wounded.
The trio of tragedies marked the second time the fledgling general election has been upended by violence. Just one month ago, Clinton and Trump also scrambled their schedules following the mass killings at an Orlando nightclub.
The political response to that attack was almost instantly contentious, as Republicans and Democrats debated whether the shooting argued for stricter gun laws or tougher anti-terror policies. The gunman had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, but law enforcement said there were no indications he had direct ties to extremist groups.
Trump was widely criticized, even by his own party, for taking credit for "being right" on terrorism after the Orlando attacks and for saying he appreciated "the congrats." He was noticeably more measured in his statement Friday and avoided making additional comments on Twitter.
The response from some of Trump's fellow Republicans was also notable. While GOP officials are often seen as siding with the police in recent altercations with black men, some high profile Republicans were pointed Friday in acknowledging racial disparities in policing.
"All of us need to acknowledge that this is about more than just one or two recent incidents," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said of this week's shootings. "The fact is that there are communities in America where black families tell us that they are fearful with interacting with local law enforcement. How they feel is a reality that we cannot and should not ignore."
Newt Gingrich, one of the top contenders to be Trump's running mate, said black Americans are "more likely to end up in a situation where the police don't respect you and you could easily get killed."
"Sometimes for whites it difficult to appreciate how real that is and how it's an everyday danger," Gingrich said.
President Barack Obama addressed the police shootings from Warsaw, Poland, where he is attending the NATO summit. He said the focus Friday should be on the victims and their families, but added that "when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately, it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic."
"In the days ahead, we will have to consider those realities as well," Obama said.
Thomas reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Miami contributed to this report.
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