A person attending President Donald Trump’s rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, on Wednesday shouted “Shoot them!” in response to Trump lamenting that he cannot be more forceful at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“When you have 15,000 people marching up, hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have hundred and hundreds of people and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great, and don’t forget we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons, we can’t,” Trump told the crowd. “Other countries do, we can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?”
“Shoot them!” a rallygoer replied.
Trump and the rest of the crowd laughed, and the president said, “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement.”
Wednesday’s “joke” is just another in a long line of dehumanizing and harmful rhetoric against immigrants.
Trump famously called members of Salvadoran gangs “animals” and has routinely suggested that immigrants from primarily Central America are “infesting” the country.
“[Democrats] don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13,” Trump tweeted in 2018.
“It’s an invasion,” Trump declared in February. “We have an invasion of drugs and criminals coming into our country.”
Trump has previously signaled that his more radicalized supporters would defend him with violence.
“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay?” Trump told Breitbart in March. “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”
In many ways, Trump is correct. His racist rhetoric has had a tangible impact on the communities where Trump supporters have felt emboldened to act out on their impulses and prejudices. According to analysis from The Washington Post, counties in the United States that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226% increase in hate crimes.
Along the border, armed, anti-immigrant militia groups like United Constitutional Patriots have stated that until Trump builds a wall, they will remain at the border.
“Why are we just apprehending them and not lining them up and shooting them?” one militia member said according to a police report obtained by The Young Turks. “We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.”