Two of President-elect Donald Trump’s closest advisers dismissed the thousands of people protesting his victory as “professional” rabble-rousers and called on President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to intervene.
“I’m not sure these are even Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama supporters,” former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” citing an incident where people were “banging on my car.” “These people are, you know, kind of like professional protesters more.”
Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama, Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and others should “come forward and ask for calm and ask for a peaceful transition, and ask their supporters which are masquerading as protesters now — many of them professional and paid by the way, I’m sure — ask them to give this man a chance so that this country can flourish.”
Giuliani, said to be a candidate for attorney general in Trump’s administration, and Conway didn’t offer evidence that any protesters are paid professionals. Trump used similar language on Twitter last week. The Associated Press reported that tens of thousands of people marched in more than a dozen large and small cities across the country, including Iowa City, Iowa, and Worcester, Massachusetts, as well as New York and Los Angeles.
The protests were mostly peaceful. Two police officers were “slightly injured” in Indianapolis, AP said, and two men were arrested and charged early Saturday in Portland, Oregon, during the fourth night of demonstrations there, after a shooting that injured a protester. The Oregonian newspaper reported that the shooting may have been gang-related.
Conway said many protesters aren’t peaceful but are instead “there for nefarious reasons — they’re booing us, they’re spitting on us, they’re causing all kinds of havoc.”
Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, countered that demonstrators helped deliver equal rights to black Americans. “When you have a president in his campaign who ran saying things that are just contrary to a fact, but literally threatening to use presidential power in a way that erode the rights and privileges and equality of large sections of Americans: God bless the protesters,” Booker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
At the same time, Booker urged protesters not to turn to “hateful speech” or violate “principles and ideals that are sacred in this country. We need to raise our voices, but we do not need to indulge in hate.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also struck a more conciliatory note than the Trump advisers. “As long as protests are peaceful, if people want to express themselves that’s what we can do in this country, that’s what the First Amendment is all about,” Ryan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Giuliani largely skirted a question of whether Trump has a responsibility to address reported incidents in which Trump supporters have been involved in racially-motivated intimidation. “They shouldn’t be doing it either,” Giuliani said of the instigators, before pivoting to say the “major focus” is the people protesting the president-elect.
“The First Amendment says that we can protest and call on our government to address grievances,” Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, a candidate to head the Democratic National Committee, said on ABC.
“These folks are telling Donald Trump that if he tries to move out on his plan to have a deportation squad, to harm Americans, and if he tries to do that, we’re going to be there to stand and say no.”