Pres­i­dent urges po­lice to be ‘rough’ on gangs

Pres­i­dent tells N.Y. re­cruits: ‘Don’t be too nice’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Bar­bara Demick and Kur­tis Lee of the Los An­ge­les Times and by Sadie Gur­man of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

BRENT­WOOD, N.Y. — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day called for po­lice and im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials to be “rough” with sus­pected gang mem­bers in or­der to rid the coun­try of “an­i­mals” he said are ter­ror­iz­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“Please don’t be too nice,” Trump told po­lice re­cruits at Suf­folk County Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Brent­wood, a heav­ily His­panic sub­urb of New York. “Like when you guys put some­body in the car and you’re pro­tect­ing their head, you know the way you put their hand so they don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed some­body … you can take that hand away.”

He im­plied that he was sat­is­fied with rough han­dling of sus­pects by the po­lice.

“When you see these thugs be­ing thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough,” he said.

Scoff­ing at calls for po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, Trump also re­newed his pledges to build a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der. He blamed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for ad­mit­ting crim­i­nals into the United States.

“The pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion en­acted an open-door pol­icy to il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Cen­tral Amer­ica,” he said. “As a re­sult MS-13 surged into the coun­try and scoured, just ab­so­lutely de­stroyed, so much in front of it.”

He was re­fer­ring to Mara Sal­va­trucha, or MS-13, a pri­mar­ily Sal­vado­ran gang that started in Los An­ge­les in the 1980s and has spread into other com­mu­ni­ties. The gang is blamed for 17 killings in Long Is­land since the be­gin­ning of last year.

Trump’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, mean­while, was in El Sal­vador, pro­mot­ing a sim­i­larly tough mes­sage against gang vi­o­lence.

“Few com­mu­ni­ties have suf­fered worse at the hand of these MS-13 thugs than the peo­ple of Long Is­land,” Trump told the re­cruits. “They have trans­formed peace­ful parks and beau­ti­ful quiet neigh­bor­hoods into blood­stained killing fields. They are an­i­mals.”

In of­ten graphic de­tail, Trump spoke of gangs’ cruelty to vic­tims, de­scrib­ing how “they like to knife them and cut them and watch them die slowly.”

The pres­i­dent’s com­ments come on the heels of a speech he gave ear­lier this week in Youngstown, Ohio, in which he also ap­peared to be en­dors­ing ex­tra­ju­di­cial vi­o­lence by law en­force­ment.

Trump’s speech in Long Is­land drew strong re­ac­tions.

“It’s clear that the way he views things is sim­ple: If you’re a per­son of color, then po­lice can beat you, slam you to the ground, not have any re­spect for your rights as a hu­man,” said Jeff Robin­son, a deputy le­gal di­rec­tor at the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

“It’s out­ra­geous. … If you’re a per­son of color in this coun­try, there’s ev­ery rea­son to fear for your life, when you hear these com­ments from a pres­i­dent,” Robin­son added.

Hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors protested out­side the com­mu­nity col­lege, lo­cated in Brent­wood, a sub­urb of 60,000 peo­ple, two-thirds of them His­panic. The pro­test­ers com­plained that Trump’s anti-im­mi­grant rhetoric and tac­tics have ter­ror­ized the com­mu­nity nearly as much as the gangs.

“Trump is pre­par­ing for a mas­sive de­por­ta­tion, and he is jus­ti­fy­ing this by us­ing our His­panic com­mu­nity in Brent­wood as an ex­cuse to help us against MS-13,” said Javier Guz­man, a 50-year-old ac­tivist who was among the pro­test­ers.

Some His­panic im­mi­grants, how­ever, were heart­ened by Trump’s cam­paign against the gangs.

“Ev­ery­body is afraid of the gangs, the mur­ders and the killings. Trump will make us feel safer. He is only go­ing af­ter the il­le­gal im­mi­grants and crim­i­nals,” busi­ness­man Rey­naldo Ca­iaffa, 65, said ear­lier this week.

Brent­wood has been ter­ror­ized by a string of mur­ders of teens and young adults. Two girls, ages 15 and 16, were killed with ma­chetes in Septem­ber near an el­e­men­tary school. In April, four young men were lured into a park and killed in ad­join­ing Cen­tral Is­lip.

The MS-13 gang has re­cruited from the ranks of im­mi­grant teenagers from Cen­tral Amer­ica, many of whom were sent to live with rel­a­tives in the U.S. be­cause it had be­come too dan­ger­ous for them in their home coun­tries.

These un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors make up most of the peo­ple ar­rested for gang vi­o­lence, as well as the ma­jor­ity of the vic­tims. Few vic­tims have been non-His­panic.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was in El Sal­vador, where MS-13 and ri­val groups now con­trol en­tire towns, rape girls and young women, and mas­sacre stu­dents, bus driv­ers and mer­chants who refuse to pay ex­tor­tion and kill com­peti­tors.

One pur­pose of Ses­sions’ trip was to learn more about how MS-13’s ac­tiv­i­ties in El Sal­vador af­fect crime in the U.S.

“It is in a very ex­pan­sive mode, and we need to slam the door on that,” Ses­sions said in an in­ter­view at the head­quar­ters of El Sal­vador’s na­tional po­lice force, where he met law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to talk about quash­ing the vi­o­lent transna­tional gang.

“We need to stop them in their tracks and fo­cus on this dan­ger­ous group,” he said.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials about the street gang MS-13 on Fri­day in Brent­wood, N.Y.

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