Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and frequent thorn in President Donald Trump’s side, marched to the White House along with 1,000 protesters on Sunday evening.
Tweeting a selfie and declaring, “Black Lives Matter,” the masked senator walked among a Christian group carrying signs reading “Racism kills" and “Be Just, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly," one of countless demonstrations across the nation sparked by racial injustice and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We need a voice against racism,” Romney said when asked why it was important to take the issue to the streets, NBC News reported. “We need many voices against racism and against brutality. We need to stand up and say, ‘Black lives matter.’”
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died May 25 after a white police officer pinned his neck to the ground for nearly 9 minutes. The officer faces a second-degree murder charge and three others involved in Floyd’s arrest -- for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill -- face charges of aiding and abetting.
"The George Floyd murder is abhorrent,” Romney said on May 30. He called for peaceful protests, but amid escalating unrest, said violence “drowns the message of the protesters and mocks the principles of justice.”
The nation’s capital has become a focal point, with Trump -- who’s expressed sympathy for Floyd’s family and peaceful protesters -- repeatedly calling for a crackdown on “thugs," “looters” and “lowlife scum." He called on governors to “dominate the streets,” and a strong presence of National Guard, federal park police and unidentified federal authorities flooded into the District in recent days.
On Sunday, the president announced that he’d ordered the National Guard to begin withdrawing from Washington, D.C. He said everything was “under perfect control.”
District police said Saturday’s protest -- which saw about 10,000 gather around national monuments and the White House -- led to just one arrest.
Romney, who’s often gone toe-to-toe with the president and was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump on an impeachment charge, isn’t the first in the GOP to lament Trump’s response to the unrest.
Sens. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma expressed dismay that the Trump administration ordered the breakup of a protest before a curfew to help pave the way for a presidential photo op.
Prominent previous members of Trump’s administration, including retired Gen. Jim Mattis, his secretary of defense, and former White House chief of staff retired Gen. John Kelly, sharply denounced Trump’s call to use U.S. troops against American protesters.
Retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed with his former colleagues on Sunday -- inspiring the president to peg Powell as an overrated “stiff.”
“We have a constitution. And we have to follow that constitution,” Powell told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “The President has drifted away from it.”
Romney on Saturday tweeted a photo of his father, former Michigan Governor and Republican presidential candidate George Romney, taking part in a Civil Rights march in the Detroit suburbs in the late 1960s. “Force alone will not eliminate riots,” George Romney said. “We must eliminate the problems from which they stem.”
The president pushed for expedited Department of Justice investigations into the deaths of Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down earlier this year while jogging in a predominantly-white Georgia neighborhood. And White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has asserted that the president “recognizes injustices where they are.”
But the president has not laid out specific plans or proposals to combat systemic racism -- something several states, members of Congress and local leaders have sought to address since Floyd’s death.
On Friday, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS NewsHour asked the president for his plan to address racism.
Trump, touting the latest jobs report, responded, “Because we’re so strong, and that’s what my plan is. We’re going to have the strongest economy in the world.”
When another reporter asked how a better economy would have helped Floyd, Trump did not answer.
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