The deadly shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge threatened to cast a pall over the Republican convention Sunday, even as delegates from Louisiana vowed that they would “stand united” against evil.
“This cowardly crime is an attack on the values of law and order that members of the Baton Rouge community so desperately tried to maintain in the 12 days since the eyes of the world focused on our state,” the group said from Cleveland.
“We send this message to those who would threaten to divide us: ‘We are Louisiana and we will stand united and prayerful against evil,'” the statement said.
Sunday’s killings marked the latest spasm of violence this summer triggered by confrontation between law enforcement and minority communities.
Whether or not those incidents, two of which have occurred in Baton Rouge, will become a more common topic of conversation within the convention remains to be seen.
But it is almost certain to strengthen the resolve of protesters outside the convention venue, especially those favoring gun control, and may harden the positions of those inside calling for law and order.
It also raised security concerns.
Republicans and Democrats alike were quick to respond to the shooting. The word “gun” was largely absent from comments in the immediate aftermath of bloodshed in what was described as an ambush on a stretch of Louisiana highway. There were expressions of outrage, calls for prayer and peace, and condolences for families.
“We will not tolerate brutal violence against law enforcement—the people who dedicate their lives to protecting Americans,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who is chairing the convention.
“Murderous attack in Baton Rouge just horrible ,” Sen. David Vitter, R-La., tweeted. “Praying for the officers and families. Blue lives matter. All lives matter.”
Republican Bill Cassidy, Louisiana’s junior senator, tweeted that “We must honor law enforcement.”
“We grieve for the families of the officers shot in Baton Rouge ,” he also wrote. “This senseless violence must end.”
Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, whose support of gun control was hardend by the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in his state that killed 20 children and six adult, wrote in a statement that his heart went out to the loved ones of “brave law enforcers who have been lost or injured in Baton Rouge.”
But Blumenthal also mentioned guns.
“Today’s heinous attack is yet another devastating reminder of the painful toll gun violence takes on our country,” he said. “At a time of anguish and anger, we must seek unity in our pursuit of peace and justice. Leadership at all levels is desperately needed to bring us together.”
Blumenthal said he would continue to hold discussions that involve law enforcement and communities of color to encourage “greater collaboration and cooperation.”
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted about the shooting. His message was not about guns – or gun control – but pointed fingers elsewhere.
“We grieve for the officers killed in Baton Rouge today,” he wrote. “How many law enforcement and people have to die because of a lack of leadership in our country? We demand law and order.”
Five police officers in Dallas were killed and seven were wounded on July 7 in an apparent revenge for the deadly police shootings.
Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed July 6 by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. His girlfriend, Lavisha Reynolds, streamed the aftermath of the incident live on Facebook.
And Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police outside a Baton Rouge convenience store on July 5.
President Barack Obama also condemned the latest shooting.
“We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but I want to be clear: there is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None. These attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one,” he said.
“They right no wrongs. They advance no causes,” Obama said. “The officers in Baton Rouge; the officers in Dallas – they were our fellow Americans, part of our community, part of our country, with people who loved and needed them, and who need us now – all of us – to be at our best.”
Obama called Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden to offer federal support.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz wrote that the police officers in Baton Rouge were the targets of “senseless violence.”
“This is a trying time for our country, and understandably, frustration is mounting,” he said. “As we just saw in Dallas, this is a horrific act fueled by people who hate. Now more than ever, we must stand united and support the very people who put their lives on the line to protect us every day.”
Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who held a press conference at a union hall on the outskirts of Cleveland as he continues his campaign for Senate, said he hasn’t reason to worry about the safety and security of people attending the convention.
“I can only say what the mayor and other officials are saying,” Strickland said. “And they’re saying they’re ready and prepared. And I hope they are. I trust that they are.” New York Republican Rep.Peter King, a member of the Homeland Security Committee and Intelligence Committee, said the events in Baton Rouge “raise security issues here that face the convention itself.”
Protesters from the left-wing and right-wing fringe groups plan to hold protests, and some, such as the New Black Panther Party, have asked to carry firearms.
That could be a volatile mix, King said.
Several hundred protesters, chanting “Black lives matter,” marched through the streets of downtown Cleveland early Sunday evening, stopping traffic and drawing crowds of onlookers just blocks from the convention’s main stage.
The procession drew an almost equal number of police officers, many riding bicycles alongside the protesters to separate them from the public gathered on the sidewalk.
Neither side appeared to interact with the other. But the protesters repeatedly chanted their disapproval of the GOP, the police and America itself.
“No Trump! No KK! No fascist USA!” they shouted at one point.