Civil rights and religious groups have slammed the decision by a northeastern police union to endorse controversial Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, whose comments on police brutality and calls to restrict U.S immigration for Muslims have sparked outrage across the political spectrum and among minority constituencies.
Rev. Jason Lydon was part of a group of clergy members who protested the event Thursday during which the New England Police Benevolent Association (NEPBA) announced their endorsement for Trump. Lydon, along with other clergy, kneeled down and prayed, blocking a hallway until police told them that they would be arrested if they continued.
Lydon said he protested to “highlight that Donald Trump is a symptom of a larger system of Islamophobia and white supremacy … and also giving credibility to so many people are responding to his Islamophobia and racism.” He added that there were around 200 protesters outside of the building where the endorsement event was being held.
Executive board members of the NEPBA, who attended a closed-door meeting to cast their votes Thursday, said that Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from entering the United States had come up briefly in their discussion, but that most of the conversation had centered on his support of police in what they perceive to be a national climate of hostility toward police officers. Trump has said that as president he would call for the death penalty for anyone who kills a police officer.
The endorsement angered members of Black Lives Matter, the activist group that burst onto the U.S. political scene to denounce perceived brutality and racial biases in policing amid a spate of police killings of black men over the last year.
Earlier this year, Trump supporters beat up a Black Lives Matter protester who had disrupted his event. Afterwards, the presidential candidate said that “maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
“We are not surprised at the NEBPA's endorsement of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny,” Black Lives Matter Cambridge said in an email to Al Jazeera. “We are only surprised by their honesty in offering such an endorsement. New England is a region rife with White male hatred and this endorsement brings that to light."
Muslim groups throughout New England were also dismayed by the police association’s endorsement of the candidate just a few days after Trump called for the ban on Muslims coming into the country.
Malik Khan, the president of the Islamic Center of Boston in Weyland, Massachusetts, wasn’t aware of the news when asked for a comment, but said: “To hear that the Benevolent Association has decided to support him is really sad."
“We’d want to ask obviously if this represents an endorsement just of a single issue from this organization, or if this this is a holistic endorsement which would encompass a Muslim ban in the U.S.” said Dr. John Robbins, the executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “This kind of endorsement would obviously be a great concern for the Muslim citizens within the jurisdiction of these officers who they’ve sworn to protect.”
With The Associated Press