US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said he believes relations between police and the nation’s African-American community are “far worse” than people think.
The presumptive Republican nominee predicts that protests against police violence which followed the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas last week “might be just the beginning for this summer”.
Mr Trump struck a balance between the law-and-order rhetoric he has espoused during his campaign and an appreciation for the concerns held by black Americans about the conduct of police.
Mr Trump suggested that a lack of training for officers might be at least partially to blame for the two police shootings which led to last Thursday’s protest in Dallas, where a lone gunman killed five officers in an apparent act of vengeance against white police.
At the same time, Mr Trump denounced the name of the Black Lives Matter movement as “a very divisive term”.
“A lot of people agree with that. A lot of people feel that it is inherently racist. And it’s a very divisive term,” he said, echoing recent comments by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“Because all lives matter. It’s a very, very divisive term.”
Mr Trump added that he has heard some Black Lives Matter activists say “horrible, horrible things about police and about others”.
The billionaire also said of protests over police brutality: “It’s time for our hostility against our police, and against all members of law enforcement, to end, and end immediately, right now.”
He went on to compare anti-police sentiment to the harassment faced by returning veterans in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
But Mr Trump also referenced the “tragic deaths in Louisiana and Minnesota” during his interview, saying they made clear that “a lot of work” must be done to ensure all Americans feel their safety is being protected.
He said he was disturbed by the images of the two killings – firstly of Alton Sterling, who was shot by police last Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after being pinned to the pavement by two officers. The altercation was captured on mobile phone video.
The following day, Philando Castile was fatally shot by an officer in suburban St Paul, Minnesota, an act streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend.
Mr Trump said of the deaths: “I thought they were horrible, horrible to witness.
“Whether that’s a lack of training or whatever … but I thought they were two incidents that were absolutely horrible to witness. At the same time, our country is losing its spirit. African-Americans are absolutely losing their spirit.”
Mr Trump framed the issue in largely economic terms, blaming the mood of the nation’s black community on high unemployment and low wages.
“Jobs can solve so many problems,” he said. “And we’re going to open our country up and we’re going to be a huge jobs producer again instead of having terrible jobs.
“Our good jobs are going away, they’re going away from this country,” he added.
“We’re going to open our country up again for great jobs where people can make terrific livings and be happy.”
Asked specifically what he would say to black Americans who feel targeted by police because of their race, Mr Trump said: “We have to talk to ’em and we have to build up the spirit.”
He added: “We have to talk with the police. And we have to get people to really get along. People are not getting along in this country. We are in a divided country.”
The White House hopeful went on to predict the problem would only grow worse.
“When president Obama said the other day that he doesn’t think it’s as bad as people think, I think it’s far worse – and certainly far worse than he believes it is.
“We are in a divided nation. I looked two nights ago and you were having trouble in 11 different cities, big, big trouble. And the press actually plays it down.
“I mean, you were having big, big trouble in many cities. And I think that might be just the beginning for this summer.”