President Donald Trump has downplayed police violence against Black people in the United States, saying “more white people” are killed by police officers.
During a CBS News interview that aired on Tuesday, the Republican president was asked why Black people were still dying at the hands of law enforcement.
“And so are white people, so are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people,” Trump responded.
According to a Washington Post analysis updated on Monday, nearly half of the people killed by police are white, while 23 percent are Black. But Black Americans, who account for only 13 percent of the population, are shot at a disproportionate rate compared with white Americans, who make up 60 percent of the population, according to the analysis.
The May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd, a Black American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis sparked protests across the US under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement and led to an increased focus on police violence against Black people.
Responding to Trump’s remarks, American Civil Liberties Union’s Jeffery Robinson said in a statement that his comments were racist.
Robinson said Trump’s answer “not only ignores the fact that per capita Black and Brown people are disproportionately killed by police, it provides the foundation for the dangerous and unconstitutional police practices that result in the deaths of Black people with regularity”.
“Trump’s racism is so absolute that he continues to refuse to give even a tacit acknowledgment to the epidemic of police violence against Black people in America,” he said, accusing him of “using the violence and suffering perpetrated against Black communities as a white-supremacist dog whistle ahead of the coming election”.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump defended police departments, saying they “do an incredible job”, adding: “You can have a rogue, terrible cop, on occasion like you do in any industry, any business, in any profession.”
Already accused of not taking a clear stance against systematic racism and police brutality, Trump has escalated his rhetoric against the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks, focusing his comments on violence that breaks out occasionally on the fringes of peaceful demonstrations.
The recent nationwide protests have added prominence to a long-running debate about the flying of the Confederate flag in parts of the country and whether statues honouring Confederate leaders during the US Civil War should be removed from public view.
Asked by CBS if the flag should be “taken down,” Trump responded: “I know people that like the Confederate flag, and they’re not thinking about slavery.”
He added: “Very simple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s freedom of speech.”
In another interview with the conservative Townhall Media network, Trump defended a white couple captured in a widely shared video as they stood brandishing guns in front of their home in the city of St Louis during a protest against racial injustice.
Trump claimed Mark and Patricia McCloskey “were going to be beat up badly, if they were lucky” and said their house would have been “totally ransacked and probably burned down” had they not done that.
“And now I understand somebody local, they want to prosecute these people. It’s a disgrace,” he said.