WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump issued his strongest condemnation yet of political violence in a video statement after he was impeached on Wednesday (Jan 13), calling for unity and urging his supporters to promote peace.
His message comes as violent demonstrations were anticipated across the United States this week.
“I want to be very clear. I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country and no place in our movement,” Mr Trump said in a video on YouTube.
His five-minute-long statement came two hours after he was impeached by the House, with some support from Republicans, for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol last week. The attack by a mob of pro-Trump supporters left five dead, including one police officer.
Mr Trump’s comments were markedly different from his statements during and immediately after last Wednesday’s Capitol attack, for which Republicans had criticised him during the impeachment debate.
During the mayhem, Mr Trump had said that his supporters were “very special” even as he told them to “go home”, while claiming again that the election had been stolen from him. Earlier tweets did not even tell them to leave the Capitol building.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump said: “Mob violence goes against everything I believe and everything our movement stands for. No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.”
No true supporter of his would disrespect law enforcement officers, or harass or threaten fellow Americans, he added.
“If you do any of these things, you’re not supporting our movement, you’re attacking it, and you’re attacking our country. We cannot tolerate it.”
Mr Trump said that political violence had spiralled out of control over the past year and urged it to stop.
“Whether you’re on the right or on the left, a Democrat or a Republican, there is never a justification for violence. No excuses, no exceptions. America is a nation of laws,” he said.
Those who engaged in the attacks last week would be brought to justice, he vowed.
The nation is bracing for more violence in state capitals and Washington DC ahead of Mr Joe Biden’s inauguration, anticipating additional demonstrations by pro-Trump supporters aggrieved by his electoral defeat.
Mr Trump said he had been briefed on the potential threats, and had directed federal agencies to use all necessary resources to maintain order.
“Every American deserves to have their voice heard in a respectful and peaceful way…but I cannot emphasise (enough) that there must be no violence, no lawbreaking, and no vandalism of any kind,” he said.
The president also criticised what he called “an unprecedented assault on free speech” over the last week, although he did not specifically mention the suspension of his accounts on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Twitter permanently suspended his account after finding that his tweets were promoting violence.
“The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong, and they are dangerous,” said Mr Trump. “What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another.”
He continued: “Today I’m calling on all Americans to overcome the passions of the moment. Let us choose to move forward united, for the good of our families, our communities, and our country.”
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