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Trump has blood of Pittsburgh victims on hands: Jewish leaders

US President Donald Trump walks to Air Force One prior to departure from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, October 30, 2018, as they travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, following the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. (Photo by AFP)

A group of Jewish leaders have blasted US President Donald Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania, saying the American head of state has blood on his hands following Saturday's mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

In a letter signed by 76,000 people on Tuesday, a group of progressive Jewish leaders – known as members of the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice – told Trump that he was not welcome in Pittsburgh until he renounced white nationalism.

"We know that we are representing tens of thousands of Jewish people who have already signed, and people across the US, around the world, who feel that the blood of these victims is on President Trump’s hands," Tammy Hepps, one of the Jewish leaders, said on CNN.

"He has knowingly and intentionally and selfishly for years used this rhetoric to endanger our community," he added.

Hepps noted that the signatories of the letter said Trump was unwelcome in Pittsburgh until he officially renounced "the words and the policies and the deeds that you have done that led to this day."

An orthodox Jewish schoolboy passes a memorial for victims of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 29, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by AFP)

The 20-minute rampage described as among the deadliest against the Jewish community in the US on Saturday left 11 people dead and dozens wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene.

Armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns, Robert Bowers, the suspect, reportedly shouted "all Jews must die" as he entered the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh.

Federal prosecutors charged the 46-year-old local resident with obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs as well as using a firearm to commit murder. In addition, he faces state charges that include 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.

It was the third mass shooting in a place of worship in the United States in the last three years.

The US president swiftly denounced the incident as anti-Semitic and an "assault on humanity," with members of Bend the Arc casting blame on Trump's rhetoric for the tragedy.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted,” the group wrote. “You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.”

Trump, who traveled to Pennsylvania on Tuesday afternoon to meet with victims' families, was also urged to stop targeting minorities, immigrants and refugees.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, alongside Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, place stones and flowers on a memorial as they pay their respects at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 30, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

US lawmakers snub Trump invite to Pittsburgh

Meanwhile, several high-profile US lawmakers declined an invitation to join Trump on his visit to Pittsburgh to pay tribute to the 11 victims of the mass shooting.

The Washington Post said in a report that House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had declined official White House invitations to accompany the US president and his wife Melania during their trip to the city.

The report added that Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto had also been invited but would not be appearing with Trump.

People gather to protest the arrival of US President Donald Trump as he visits the Tree of Life Congregation on October 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by AFP)

City and local officials had earlier told the Washington Post that they were expecting at least two protests to coincide with the victims’ funerals.

Around 1,500 protesters took to the streets of Pittsburgh later on Tuesday to denounce Trump’s visit in the wake of the mass shooting, holding signs that read "President Hate, Leave Our State!" and "Trump, Renounce White Nationalism Now."

The crowd marched through the neighborhood, with residents and shop workers pouring out of their homes and businesses in solidarity.


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