Visiting the site of a national tragedy is something the President of the United States is often called to do – listen to Americans who have been affected by an event that has attracted the country’s attention and called for national unity.
Trump expressed sympathy from the heavily fortified White House gates, and invoked Floyd’s name during an event focusing on American jobs. He was photographed in a church ravaged by thieves after peaceful demonstrators had been cleared of the area with riot deterrents, such as pepper balls. He held a round table with representatives of national law enforcement organizations, Sharif Jomhouri and two Republican prosecutors, to hear their side of the case.
But Trump’s efforts to deal with the demonstrations, in many ways, have reaped criticism and sowed division.
Vice President Mike Pence held a series of hearings with members of the African American community.
Floyd said: “He didn’t even give me a chance to speak.” “It was difficult. I was trying to talk to him, but he kept pushing me, like” I don’t want to hear what you’re talking about. ”
A senior administration official said that talk of issues related to race and national unity is under serious consideration. In an interview with “State of the Union” on CNN on Sunday, Minister of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson – the only black member of Trump’s government – hinted that “we will hear from the president this week in some detail.”
But so far, Trump has not been directly exposed to members of the American public who have disagreed with his policy since he took office.
In general, though, the White House does not put the president in a position to be challenged by ordinary Americans who oppose his political views. Indeed, it is very rare for a modern American president to publicly confront ordinary Americans who oppose their administration’s policies. Each meeting and round table is organized and carefully occurring with examination by White House staff.
But there is a precedent for US presidents to meet with activists and civil rights leaders, or, in at least one case, visit the sites of mass protests rooted in ethnic tensions.
President John F. Kennedy met civil rights leaders on the same day that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. President George HW. Bush was criticized for waiting five days to visit Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots after exonerating police officers involved in the brutal beating of Rodney King. President Richard Nixon met with anti-Vietnam protesters before dawn at the Lincoln Memorial five days after the accident at Kent State University, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire and killed four students to protest the expansion of the war in Cambodia.
Criticism and division were met by some of Trump’s previous visits to American societies feeding the wounds of the national tragedy.
Kristen Holmes and Sarah Westwood of CNN contributed to this report.