VIRGINIA BEACH – Calling himself “the law and order candidate,” Republican presidential contender Donald Trump said Monday that police need more authority to protect the public but acknowledged a growing problem of racial unrest.
Trump told a crowd of about 175 supporters in a Westin Town Center Hotel ballroom that he had intended to focus his afternoon speech on his proposals to assist military veterans but changed his speech after Thursday’s ambush and killing of five Dallas police officers and wounding of ten others. Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who introduced him, both argued for a stronger national focus on law enforcement.
“It’s time for our hostility against our police and against all members of law enforcement to end, and end immediately — right now,” Trump said. “We must maintain law and order at the highest level, or we will cease to have a country.”
He said fatal shootings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana in the days before the Dallas attack “make clear that work must be done to ensure — and a lot of work — that Americans feel their safety is protected. We have to do it.”
Those two earlier shootings sparked a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, where authorities say a gunman shot 13 police officers and two bystanders before he was killed by police.
Trump said in an interview after his speech that police need more power but did not offer specifics.
“Our police have got to be given the authority to solve problems,” Trump said. “The police can do much more to solve the problem but … their power to a large extent has been, believe it or not, been taken away. They’re afraid to move.”
He added, “At the same time, they have to be beautifully trained and perfectly trained so that we don’t have situations like we had with the two recent problems.”
The presumptive GOP nominee said the violence and resulting protests highlight a growing threat of racial unrest.
“I think it’s a bigger problem than people understand. I think it’s far bigger than President Obama wants to admit,” Trump said. “He doesn’t want to admit it because it’s taking place during his administration. I mean, when you have 11 cities absolutely ready to blow up over the last three or four days — and it could very well get worse. I mean we’re just going into the summer.”
The New York businessman said he could help solve those problems by blocking U.S. companies from moving operations overseas and keeping more jobs here.
“Right now, many of these people that have no job, they have no hope. The people are losing faith in our country,” he said, referring to many who have been protesting police mistreatment. “There’s a lot of anger out there. We need somebody who is going to bring it together and put our country together.”
“Our jobs are being sucked out of our cities. They’re moving to Mexico. … We have to be able to go back into business again in this country,” he said.
Lamenting the persistent problems of veterans snagged in the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy, Trump promised a deep investigation as soon as he takes office. Among his proposed VA changes: Eligible veterans would be able to get VA-paid medical care from any doctor or medical facility rather than just the VA hospital system.
Acknowledging Hampton Roads’ dependence on defense spending, Trump said in the interview that he’ll release a detailed plan before the Nov. 8 election, outlining how he’ll grow the size of the military. It will include more personnel, more ships, more aircraft and other equipment, he said.
“Of course, it’s good for this area,” he said, but it’s necessary. “It’s not like we have a choice. This is one of the most dangerous times that’s ever been, in your lifetime or my lifetime.”
Trump said he wouldn’t be aggressive in using a larger force. “We don’t want to use our military. We want to build a military,” he said.
Trump, who is expected to accept the GOP presidential nomination at the party’s national convention in Cleveland next week, reiterated his criticisms of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He accused her of being unfit for office after the FBI’s investigation of her use of a private email server to hold classified government emails.
Three hours before his speech, three former military officers who support Clinton spoke out against Trump outside the hotel.
“Donald Trump has said so many things over the years that are just so utterly insulting to the men and women who serve our country,” said Dave Belote, a retired Air Force colonel and unsuccessful 2015 state Senate candidate. “He calls our military ‘a disaster.'”
During the candidate’s stop in Town Center, dozens of people stood outside the front entrance of The Westin.
The number of signs for and against him was about equal. Almost as many held signs in support of Black Lives Matter. A few arguments broke out among the opposing sides, but it was peaceful for the most part.
Anne Tammaro of Virginia Beach heard about the event Sunday night and decided at the last minute to come. She stood outside dressed in blue and white and holding a sign that read: “The Silent Majority Stands With Trump.”
“I thought, I don’t care if it’s not open to the public, I want to go and show my support,” Tammaro said.
Jimmy Sevillano, 19, and Mallory Jones, 18, said they came out of curiosity and to catch a glimpse of the candidate. Neither supports Trump.
“I dislike him very much,” Jones said.
Trump said he’s not bothered that some are wary of him because of his aggressive approach and incendiary language.
“All I can do is do what I’m doing,” he said. “We need somebody with a stronger tone. We need somebody with a stronger temperament. And at the same time, it may be strong, but I bet I have more compassion in my temperament than Hillary Clinton does.”
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