In a speech before law enforcement officials in Long Island, New York on Friday, President Donald Trump celebrated his administration’s crackdown on immigration and encouraged police officers to be “rough” with those they detain—a statement that was widely seen as an explicit call for police brutality.
“Don’t be too nice,” Trump said after referencing “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.”
“President Trump is openly and explicitly calling for, to wild applause just moments ago, cops to commit more police brutality,” wrote Daily Beast reporter Asawin Suebsaeng. “America is once again a nation of laws, says Trump, who just told cops to beat the shit out of people they arrest.”
Others shared Suebsaeng’s reaction and denounced the president’s comments as “utterly revolting.”
The speech was intended to focus on the gang MS-13, which critics argue the Trump administration is using as a pretext to expand its mass detention and deportation agenda.
New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman said in a statement ahead of the Long Island speech that Trump’s repeated invocation of MS-13 in the context of a broader conversation about the U.S. immigration system is “a cynical ploy to capitalize on recent headlines, cast aspersions on entire communities, and push his anti-immigrant agenda.”
“Trump’s vile rhetoric and cruel deportation machine mean that vulnerable immigrants must fear both gangs and the government at once,” Lieberman concluded.