President Donald Trump says the United States must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy” after a mass shooting in the state of Texas that authorities said appeared to be a racially motivated hate crime.
A gunman on Saturday killed 20 people, including six Mexican citizens, at a Walmart store in El Paso, close to the border with Mexico. Just a few hours later, another gunman in Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people. Dozens of others were wounded in the attacks.
Investigators believed the shooter in El Paso uploaded a rambling screed online shortly before targeting a busy shopping area, railing against a perceived “invasion” of Hispanics coming into the US.
“The shooter in El Paso posted a manifesto online, consumed by racist hate,” Trump said on Monday in a televised address to the nation from the White House.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he added. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America.”
The Republican president did not directly address accusations from critics that his anti-immigrant and racially charged comments have contributed to a rise in hate crimes.
Democrats hit hard at Trump on Sunday, with several of the party’s presidential candidates accusing him of white nationalism, “stoking fears and hatred and bigotry”.
They cited Trump actions like calling migrants trying to enter the US through the southern border an “invasion” and verbal attacks on four Congresswomen of colour, in which he told them to “go back” to their countries of origin.
On Monday, Trump blamed the nexus of hatred, mental illness and social media for deadly mass shootings.
He directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to “disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism”, and ordered the Department of Justice to propose legislation setting the death penalty for those who commit such crimes.
He also said the country needs to reform mental health laws to identify disturbed people as well as work with social media companies to detect possible mass shooters.
“We must recognise the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalise disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” he added.
– AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES