President Donald Trump apparently doesn’t want US troops to open fire on migrants at the southern border after all.
Trump said in a speech on Thursday that members of a migrant caravan would be shot if they threw stones at border officials. By Friday, however, he had changed his tuned, saying that members of the caravan who throw rocks at border officials would be arrested, not shot.
Some migrants in the caravan making its way through to the U.S. border clashed with Mexican officials at Mexico’s southern border, throwing bottles and rocks. One migrant was killed, and dozens were injured.
The issue of how to respond to potential flare-ups of violence by the migrants slowly trekking toward the US is one that Trump returned to at various points during the past week.
“They hit them with rocks and some were very seriously injured and they were throwing rocks in their face,” the president told reporters on the south lawn of the White House on Tuesday. “If they do that with us, they’re gonna be arrested.”
Trump added that he hoped no border officials “won’t have to fire. I didn’t say shoot,” Trump said. “I didn’t say shoot. But if they do that with us they’re gonna be arrested for a long time.”
But during a Thursday speech on the topic of immigration at the White House, President Trump suggested just that.
“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” the president told reporters. “I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police I say consider it a rifle.”
TRUMP, suggesting that U.S. troops dispatched to the border could shoot migrants who throw rocks: “We will consider that a firearm, because there's not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock." pic.twitter.com/FWwp1kNWGS
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) November 1, 2018
By Friday he had backpedaled, but the damage from his dangerous rhetoric had already been done.
The Nigerian army used posted a video of Trump saying that rifles should be used as retaliation against thrown rocks in order to justify opening fire on Shi’ites on the outskirt of capital Abuja.
Sickening. Under scrutiny from human rights orgs for firing on a crowd of protesters, the Nigerian Army tweets Trump from yesterday telling US troops that any migrants throwing rocks should be handled as if they are armed with “a rifle” 1/2 pic.twitter.com/2udS9fgAhm
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) November 2, 2018
The president has characterized members of the migrant caravan as “tough fighters” and has cited the clashes at the Mexican border an excuse to send thousands of soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming,” the president tweeted Wednesday. “We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!”
Our military is being mobilized at the Southern Border. Many more troops coming. We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. Our Border is sacred, must come in legally. TURN AROUND!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
The caravan meanwhile, is weeks, maybe even months, away from reaching the U.S. border.