Dallas shootings ripple through Washington
WASHINGTON — The racially-charged shootings that took five officers’ lives in Dallas reverberated Friday across the nation to the U.S. Capitol, itself under a brief lockdown following a false report of woman with a gun.
White House contenders Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cancelled some campaign events, and President Barack Obama, meeting with European leaders in Warsaw, called for flags to be flown at half-mast.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, and the entire Texas congressional delegation held a moment of silence on the House floor in honor of the victims in Dallas. The congresswoman called the shootings, which happened in her district, “a disgraceful act of violence.”
Obama, who spoke with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, offered federal assistance and condemned the ambush-style shootings as a “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”
The partisan rhetoric that frequently accompanies mass shootings in America was muted, with Democrats and Republicans alike calling for unity in the face of the racial divisions surrounding a spate of police-involved shootings in recent days and years.
Trump, known for his provocative pronouncements on Twitter, took to Facebook to condemn the shootings as “an attack on our country” and to call for “law and order.” But he also called attention to the deaths of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota at the hands of police earlier in the week.
“We must restore the confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street,” he said. “The senseless, tragic deaths of two people in Louisiana and Minnesota reminds us how much more needs to be done.”
Clinton offered her condolences Friday to the families of the slain officers. “I mourn for the officers shot while doing their sacred duty to protect peaceful protesters, for their families and all who serve with them,” she wrote on Twitter.
Clinton’s expression of sympathy came a day after her campaign had declared that “Black Lives Matter,” a response to the videos that went viral showing the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Clinton’s pivot underscored the sensitivities at play in the national debate over police use deadly force in black communities - the point of a peaceful protest in Dallas Thursday night that ended with an eruption of sniper fire, killing five officers and wounded seven others.
“This recent violence serves as a stark reminder that relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve remains extremely tense, and we must do everything we can not to enflame this tension even further,” Johnson said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, following the events in Dallas from the Capitol, expressed his concerns about retaliation against police. “I think the FBI director and others have talked about the dangers of suggesting it’s OK for people to retaliate against police officers for perceived slights or injustices,” he told Capitol reporters. “We’ll learn more, but certainly that raised concerns when I saw it.”
Fellow Republican Ted Cruz, Texas’ junior senator, sought out common ground in a Friday morning interview with syndicated radio talk show host Glenn Beck.
“There is enormous frustration across the country on many, many fronts, and much of the frustration is justified. It’s frustration with our system. It’s frustration with corruption,” Cruz said, calling on Americans not to “jump to conclusions until we understand...
“And when it comes to condemning acts of violence,” he continued, “whether it is the targeted murder of police officers or whether it is, just a few weeks ago, a self-professed ISIS terrorist murdering 49 people and wounding another 50 in Orlando, murder is wrong. And it should not be a partisan issue. It should be an issue that brings us together united as Americans.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also issued a statement covering “the tragedies America has suffered this week in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota... Our hearts break for the families of these slain officers as well as the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch condemned the week’s violence and pleaded with Americans “not to allow the events of this week to precipitate a ‘new normal’ in our country.”
The political reaction was not without friction. Trump was forced to distance itself from a Facebook post by Corey Stewart, his campaign’s Virginia state chairman, blaming the shootings on Clinton.
“Liberal politicians who label police as racists - specifically Hillary Clinton and Virginia Lt. Governor Ralph Northam - are to blame for essentially encouraging the murder of these police officers,” Stewart wrote.