Trump tours Catholic shrine as unrest continues

Demonstrators hold an American flag upside-down in protest near the White House in Washington yesterday. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

Donald Trump has toured a Catholic shrine in a second religious-themed appearance since the beginning of widespread unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Critics said the US president was misusing religious symbols for partisan purposes, but the White House said Mr Trump and first lady Melania Trump were observing a “moment of remembrance”, laying a wreath in a quiet visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington DC.

The visit came a day after Mr Trump declared himself the “president of law and order” and then walked to St John’s Episcopal Church near the White House after Lafayette Park was forcibly cleared of protesters.

Yesterday, Washington Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said he was “baffled” by Mr Trump’s visit to the shrine and called it “reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people, even those with whom we might disagree”.

Meanwhile, gardaí are investigating if the Black Lives Matter protest which saw thousands of people take to the streets of Dublin on Monday, breached Covid-19 regulations.

With gardaí now seeking advice from the DPP, those who planned the march, via social media could face prosecution.

There was no advance consultation with gardaí ahead of the protest, the size of which “substantially” exceeded the expectations of organisers, said a Garda spokesman.

Those identified as ‘organisers’ pro-actively engaged with gardaí during the event.

“The organisers had made attempts to mark social distancing guidelines on O’Connell St for their anticipated number of participants. Social distancing is a guideline, not a regulation.”

Holding events is currently prohibited during the lockdown under Covid-19 restrictions.

“An Garda Síochána is investigating this matter and the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions will be sought in respect of any further actions to be taken.”

Meanwhile, now is “not the time” to attend events that could be classed as mass gatherings, however well-intentioned, chief medical officer Tony Holohan warned.

The public health advice is clear on mass gatherings, and they are not “appropriate” at the moment, he said.