By Alexandra Alper
CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump came not to praise Chicago but to condemn it – and did he ever.
In remarks to a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Trump said Chicago with its high rate of murders compared unfavourably with Afghanistan, where the United States has been at war since an invasion triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation. All over the world, they’re talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison, it’s true,” said Trump.
Trump also blasted Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who had refused to attend the event to express opposition to the Republican president, who was making his first trip to the heavily Democratic city since taking office in early 2017.
“Here’s a man that could not bother to show up for a meeting of police chiefs – the most respected people in the country – in his hometown and with the president of the United States. And you know why? It’s because he’s not doing his job,” Trump said of Johnson.
Homicides in Chicago in 2018 numbered 561, down from 653 in 2017. The Chicago Tribune said 436 homicides had been recorded so far in 2019 in the third most-populous U.S. city.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, responded to Trump on Twitter, saying it was no surprise that Trump “brought his insulting, ignorant buffoonery to Chicago.”
“Luckily, in this city, we know the truth and we will not let anyone — no matter how high the office — denigrate who we are as a people or our status as a welcoming city,” she said.
A few thousand people rallied outside of Trump Tower in Chicago, where Trump was inside raising about $4 million for his 2020 re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee.
They held signs protesting Trump and his presidency, banged on drums and blew whistles. “Impeach and convict” read one sign.
Retired suburban teacher Claudia Feeney, 68, said Trump should be impeached.
“He’s a disgrace to the presidency and a danger to the country,” she said.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, Brendan O’Brien and Karen Pierog; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney)