Letter, Available Here, Is Signed By Mayors of Seattle, Portland, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Newport News, Lansing, Durham, Albuquerque, Madison, Grand Rapids
Mayors: ‘When Self-Styled Vigilantes Brandish Firearms, They Make Violence More Likely, Not Less’
NEW YORK — In an open letter released today, 10 mayors are calling on President Donald Trump to condemn armed intimidation and vigilantism by extreme-right militias and other extremists, highlighting the risks to public safety posed by private citizens openly carrying firearms under the guise of upholding law and order. Each mayor is part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan coalition of more than 2,000 current and former mayors that is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization.
Since nationwide protests began after the murder of George Floyd in May, the President and his allies have demonized protesters, incited violence, and enabled vigilantes. In May, the president tweeted “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“Acts of intimidation and vigilantism do not promote public safety,” the letter states. “They undermine it. As we have seen multiple times over the last few weeks, in an instant, the presence of firearms can turn disagreement or a scuffle into a deadly tragedy.”
Read the full letter here.
“Mayors are on the frontlines of America’s gun violence crisis, and that crisis has gotten even worse in the last few months thanks to President Trump’s encouragement of armed vigilantism,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “If President Trump truly cares about protecting public safety, he will heed these mayors and condemn reckless extremists in no uncertain terms.”
“When armed extremists seek out confrontations with peaceful demonstrators protesting police violence against Black Americans, responsible leaders don’t stay silent,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “They sure as hell don’t egg them on. The president shouldn’t need a reminder that vigilantism undermines public safety.”
“There is no excuse for inciting vigilantism or armed intimidation of peaceful protesters,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. There are serious consequences to the kind of reckless rhetoric we continue to hear from the White House.”
“Gun violence is on the rise in both Democratic and Republican cities across America – including Seattle,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “It’s beyond time for the President and Congress to enact commonsense gun safety laws and invest more deeply in communities. Mayors won’t stand idly by as the President encourages reckless escalations that put our residents in danger. The stakes are real, and it’s past time to condemn these dangerous acts of intimidation and move forward on meaningful actions to reduce gun violence.”
“The president’s words have ripple effects far beyond Washington,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “When they threaten public safety in Albuquerque, we won’t hesitate to speak out. Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide us or silence us.”
“No matter where you stand, the vast majority of us express our beliefs with words — not by using firearms to intimidate those we disagree with,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “As elected officials, we have an obligation to condemn armed intimidation and vigilantism.”
“Armed vigilantes make our communities less safe, period,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley Price. “As public officials, we have a responsibility to make clear this has no place in our neighborhoods or in our politics.”
“One of our fundamental duties as public officials is to promote public safety,” said Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “This means rejecting the use of violence — not encouraging reckless behavior that makes violence more likely.”
“Those with guns can quickly turn peaceful protest into intimidation or violence,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “We have too many guns and too many shootings already, and the President should not be approving of nor inciting mixing guns with any peaceful protests.”
“The president’s actions have consequences, and his words do, too,” said Durham Mayor Steve Schewel. “There are many ways the president could help cities prevent violence and improve public safety — but instead, he continues to incite extreme and reckless behavior that only makes Durham and other cities less safe.”
“Mayors have little patience for reckless rhetoric that undermines our constituents’ safety,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. “Responsible leaders don’t incite armed vigilantism – they condemn it.”
“The president’s incitement emboldens extremists who use firearms, not ideas, to advance their political agendas,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Presidents should work to advance public safety — not encourage those who threaten it. The president’s words and actions create more violence. We need less.”
Last month in Kenosha, a 17-year-old armed counterprotester shot and killed two people protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The shooter has been identified as a white 17-year-old from Illinois who reportedly associated with a militia group. According to Vice, the shooter’s social media showed his affinity for online movements that have recently “inspired the presence of pro-cop vigilante groups at civil rights protests.” He also sat in the front row of a Trump rally in January and reportedly expressed fervent support for President Trump to his classmates. Read more about political leaders glorifying violence against protesters here.
The night before the shooting, at the Republican National Convention, five different speakers spoke of “uncontrolled violent mobs that they claim have taken over the nation’s streets,” according to the Washington Post, and the St. Louis couple who pointed guns at peaceful protesters was given a national platform. Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “it’s impossible not to notice how that rhetoric echoes in what appears to have happened in Kenosha.”