A visit to the site of a national tragedy is something the American president often calls for – to listen to Americans under the influence of events that have attracted the country’s attention and called for national unity.
Trump expressed sympathy from the hard-hitting door of the White House and called Floyd’s name during an event focused on U.S. affairs. He posed for a photo in a church damaged by looters after peaceful protesters were removed from the area with anti-insurgency equipment, such as pepper balls. And he held a roundtable with representatives of national law enforcement organizations, a Republican sheriff and two Republican attorneys, to hear their side of the issue.
But Trump’s efforts to address the demonstrations have led to criticism and sown division in many ways.
Vice President Mike Pence held a series of hearings with members of the African-American community.
“He didn’t give me a chance to speak,” Floyd said. “It was hard. I tried to talk to him, but he just kept me going, like, pushing me, like, ‘I don’t want to hear what you’re talking about.’ “”
A senior administration official said addressing issues related to race and national unity was being seriously considered. And Housing and Urban Development Minister Ben Carson – the only black member of Trump’s cabinet – hinted in an interview with CNN’s “state union” on Sunday that we would “talk to the president about this topic this week” in some detail. ”
But so far Trump has had little direct exposure to members of the American public who have disagreed with his policies since taking office.
Yet the White House generally does not put the president in a position to be challenged on a daily basis by Americans who oppose his political views. In fact, it is quite rare for a modern American president to publicly confront everyday Americans who deviate from the policies of their administrations. Each meeting, roundtable, and event was carefully prepared with guests checked by White House staff.
But there is a precedent for U.S. presidents to meet with civil rights activists and leaders or, at least in one case, to visit sites of mass protests rooted in racial tensions.
President John F. Kennedy met the same day with civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. held his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. President George H.W. Bush has been criticized for waiting five days for a visit to Los Angeles after the riots in LA after the acquittal of police officers involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King. And President Richard Nixon met with protesters against the Vietnam War before dawn at the Lincoln Memorial, five days after the incident at Kent State University, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire and killed four students protesting against the spread of the war in Cambodia.
Some of Trump’s previous visits to U.S. communities that nurture early national tragedies have met with criticism and division.
Kristen Holmes and Sarah Westwood contributed to this report.