With much of the United States still reeling from this past week’s shootings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana and the sniper attack in Dallas that killed five police officers, the two leading 2016 presidential candidates offered prayers and condolences Saturday but also vowed to rebuild the nation and help Americans pull through the tragedies.
The major parties' presumed nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, both postponed major campaign events after the enormity of the attack in Texas became clear early Friday, but they have since issued statements on Twitter, Facebook and their own websites.
The ambush-style attack in Dallas by a single military-trained gunman wounded nine people and killed five police officers. Before the attacker was killed, he said he was specifically trying to kill white police, apparently in an outburst of rage after controversial incidents earlier in the week in which two African-American men were gunned down by police at point-blank range.
The sniper attacked Thursday evening as a peaceful protest against the incidents in Louisiana and Minnesota was ending in downtown Dallas.
"I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families & all who serve with them. –H," Clinton said in a note on Twitter.
Many are 'devastated'
Trump tweeted, "Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country."
Clinton postponed a joint appearance with Vice President Joe Biden at a rally scheduled for Scranton, Pennsylvania, but she did appear Friday evening at a meeting in Philadelphia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton called for “ending the systemic racism that plagues our country” and an effort by all Americans to rebuild police-community relations damaged by this week's events.
“White Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers" against them, Clinton said. " ... None of us can afford to be indifferent toward each other. Not now. Not ever.”
The former secretary of state pledged that she would, if elected president, commit to spending $1 billion on training programs for police throughout the country, and for research into ways to reduce violent confrontations.
More police training
Whether or not individual police officers have been guilty of using excessive force in specific incidents, Clinton said Americans must not vilify all law enforcement personnel, because they are protecting the nation.
“Remember what those officers were doing when they died" in Dallas, she said. "They were protecting a peaceful march.”
Trump said the Dallas shooting was an “attack on our country ... a coordinated, premeditated assault on the men and women who keep us safe.” He called on all Americans to stand in solidarity and remember that law enforcement is the “force between civilization and total chaos.”
Trump, however, also condemned the circumstances in which two African men — Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota — died this past week, shot by police.
“Every American has the right to live in safety and peace. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota also make clear how much more work we have to do to make every American feel that their safety is protected,” the Republican candidate said.
Speaking in a Facebook video released Friday, Trump lamented that racial divisions in the United States appear to have deteriorated. Too many Americans, he said, live in terrible poverty and violence.
“We need jobs and we are going to produce those jobs,” the real estate entrepreneur said.
President Barack Obama was in Poland when the Dallas shootings occurred, but he referred to events at home several times while he was at the NATO summit in Warsaw. The president said he feels that Americans are not as divided on racial issues as some have suggested.
The gunman who shot the five police officers in Dallas was a “demented individual,” Obama said, and he was not at all representative of African-Americans.
"When we start suggesting that somehow there's this enormous polarization and we're back to the situation in the '60s and. ... That's just not true. You're not seeing riots, you're not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully,” Obama said.
The president, cutting short his trip to Europe, is scheduled to return to Washington Sunday night.