Trump plays up gang threat, urges rough policing

President Donald Trump traveled to a crime-afflicted New York town Friday, seeking to magnify the threat from Latino gangs and encouraging police to doll out rough justice.

US President Donald Trump says "animals" in gangs like MS-13 have "butchered" little girls, and transformed peaceful areas into "blood-stained killing fields"
US President Donald Trump says "animals" in gangs like MS-13 have "butchered" little girls, and transformed peaceful areas into "blood-stained killing fields" (AFP)

President Donald Trump traveled to a crime-afflicted New York town Friday, seeking to magnify the threat from Latino gangs and encouraging police to doll out rough justice.

On a visit to Long Island, Trump described an urban hell where "animals" in gangs like MS-13 have "butchered" little girls, and "transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields."

"They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob. They prey on children. They shouldn't be here. They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machetes. And they stab them with knives," Trump said, using language unusual for a US president.

The gang, which is largely Salvadoran, has killed 17 people here over the past year and a half.

Trump has seized on the uptick in violence as evidence for the need for his restrictive immigration policies and less humane policing.

Some, but not all, gang members are illegal immigrants. Others are legal residents.

Flanked by uniformed police officers, Trump appeared to encourage them to abuse gang members taken into custody.

Trump asked them to "please don't be too nice" to "thugs," suggesting they be "thrown" into the back of police cars.

He also suggested that police should not place their hands protectively on detainees heads as they enter the vehicle. "You can take the hand away, okay?"

Hundreds of anti-Trump protesters waving flags and banners rallied Friday outside the community college where Trump spoke.

"Trump's visit here is an attempt to generalize violence and associate it with all Latinos. It is a pretext for winning votes, a way of promoting his racism," said Edwin Avila, a 44-year-old Salvadoran who has lived in Brentwood for 20 years.

On the other side of the street, several dozen Trump supporters insulted the protesters and chanted, "Eight more years."