U.S. President Donald Trump landed in Pittsburgh Tuesday to pay his respects to the Jewish community that lost 11 of its members on Saturday when a shooter opened fire on the Tree of Life congregation.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer joined Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and top White House officials as they landed in Pittsburgh.
While Dermer agreed to join the president, other big names in Washington turned down the honor – House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, House Majority and Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority and Minority leaders Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, all turned down invitations.
A list of local officials, including Pittsburgh mayor, Bill Peduto, also declined their invitations to meet with the visiting president. The mayor had publicly advised the president to delay his visit so that the community’s attention could be focused on embracing the victims.
But the White House moved ahead with the plan to visit on Tuesday afternoon.
The Trumps, escorted by shooting survivor and rabbi of the synagogue Jeffrey Myers, walked in front of a row of makeshift memorials in front of the synagogue for each of the victims, decorated with a Star of David, as the president placed a small stone on each one.
The entourage also included first daughter and son-in-law and White House advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The U.S. president and his family lit candles for each of the victims in the synagogue vestibule.
Earlier in the day, Myers had said that while, in his view, the president should be "welcome" to pay his condolences, that he would not meet with him because he would be too busy with funeral arrangements for his congregants. In the end, however, Myers did choose to greet Trump, a decision that was applauded by some and condemned by others.
While Trump and his family lit candles in memory of the victims, thousands of people rallied outside to protest Trump's divisive rhetoric, which many in Pittsburgh believe contributed to a national climate of hate that gave rise to the attack.
Protesters held signs that read, "President Hate, Leave our state," "Words matter," "Ban assault rifles, Be a leader" and "Trump will lie about this too."
Members of Pittsburgh's Jewish community said earlier Tuesday that they would protest against Trump if he came to Pittsburgh. In an announcement for the protest to be held on Tuesday afternoon, organizers said, "President Trump, words have consequences."
"The gunman who tore apart our neighborhood believed your lies about the immigrant caravan in Mexico," the announcement read, referring to a group of migrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the United States. "He believed anti-semitic lies that Jews were funding the caravan."
The announcement also echoed an open letter from a group of local Jewish leaders who told Trump: "You are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism."
More than 43,000 people have signed the letter, organized and posted online by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization opposed to what it calls "the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party."
Earlier Tuesday, the Jewish community buried the victims of Saturday's terror attack. Funerals were held for brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal as well as for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz.
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