Speaking to a powerful police officers’ union in New Hampshire Thursday night, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump vowed that if elected, one of his first actions in office would be signing a particular executive order. “Anybody killing a policeman, a policewoman, a police officer, anybody killing a police officer: Death penalty is going to happen, okay?” he told the cheering crowd. “The police and the law enforcement in this country — I will never ever let them down, just remember that.”
Trump did not say how the executive order would work in the 19 states that have banned the death penalty. In states that have the death penalty, killing an officer is often already considered an “aggravating factor” in deciding whether a defendant will be eligible for capital punishment. Trump also voiced support for police acquiring and using military equipment, calling President Obama’s work to scale back access to such weapons and tactical vehicles in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri “a tremendous mistake.”
The New England Police Benevolent Association, which has about 5,000 members across New Hampshire and Massachusetts, endorsed Trump at Thursday night’s event, telling reporters they selected “the candidate who best serves our membership.”
Executive Director Jerry Flynn added, “Listen, our message very clear: It’s what is the next president of the United States going to do to unite this country in an effort to save police officers? Because it’s open season on police officers.” The number of officers killed on the job, however, is the lowest it has been in decades. More people were killed by police in the first week of September alone than the number of officers killed in all of 2015.
Trump’s popularity in the Granite State has never been higher, as the candidate has climbed to 27 percent in the polls following his declaration that all Muslims be barred from entering the United States.
Yet outside the hotel Thursday night, hundreds of protesters gathered to denounce both Trump’s anti-Islam remarks and the police union’s endorsement of a campaign increasingly aligned with white supremacist beliefs. Holding signs reading, “Shame on the police union!!!” and “NH police endorse racism,” the demonstrators called out Trump’s controversial remarks about Muslims, refugees, and Mexican immigrants, warning that such rhetoric is already leading to “an increase in fear and threats.”
In the last few weeks alone, there has been a major spike in physical and verbal attacks across the U.S. against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim — including the shooting of a cab driver in Philadelphia, death threats against a member of Congress, and an assault on a store owner in Queens.