President Donald Trump’s response to the violent attacks in Barcelona has sparked outrage online.
Five suspected terrorists have been shot dead by police in Cambrils, Barcelona, after they drove a car into pedestrians and injured seven people.
The attack took place just nine hours after a van ploughed into tourists on Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas district, killing 14 and wounding about 100. At least 15 of those injured are said to be in a serious condition.
Police said they have made three arrests over the attack on Las Ramblas, but none of these are believed to be the driver who fled the scene.
Josep Lluis Trapero, the head of the regional police force the Mossos d’Esquadra, said the rampage was designed “to kill as many people as possible”.
And Islamic State have since claimed responsibility for the attack, boasting on a website that: “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia.”
As news of the attacks unfolded online, a number of the world’s leading political figures tweeted their support and solidarity to the innocent people caught up in the violence.
Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the “terrible” assault on the Spanish city, saying in a statement: “My thoughts are with the victims of today's terrible attack in Barcelona and the emergency services responding to this ongoing incident.
“The UK stands with Spain against terror.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan echoed her sentiments, tweeting: “My thoughts are with the victims of this barbaric terrorist attack in the great city of Barcelona and with their brave emergency services.
“London stands with Barcelona against the evil of terrorism.”
Michelle and I are thinking of the victims and their families in Barcelona. Americans will always stand with our Spanish friends. Un abrazo.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 17, 2017
Former POTUS Barack Obama posted a message which read: “Michelle and I are thinking of the victims and their families in Barcelona. Americans will always stand with our Spanish friends. Un abrazo.”
‘Un abrazo’ can be roughly translated to mean ‘a hug’.
Hillary Clinton said: “Barcelona, you have our resolve and support in the face of this cowardly attack. We stand together against terrorism wherever it strikes.”
Chelsea Clinton, meanwhile, tweeted in Spanish: “Manteniendo a la gente de Barcelona en mi corazón.”
This translates to: “Keeping the people of Barcelona in my heart.”
Manteniendo a la gente de Barcelona en mi corazón.— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) August 17, 2017
President Donald Trump’s messages, however, have sparked fury all over the internet.
The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
After a relatively conventional response, in which he asked the people of Barcelona to “be tough and strong”, the POTUS shared another, more cryptic, tweet.
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught,” it read. “There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
General John Pershing, who died in 1948, was commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. This is not the first time that Trump has alluded to him in discussions about terrorism: at a campaign rally in 2016, the then-presidential candidate used a widely debunked urban legend about Pershing to illustrate the aggressive stance he would take on terrorism.
Trump told the crowd that Pershing once “caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men, and he dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood.”
He continued that the general then “had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people.
“And the 50th person he said: you go back to your people and you tell them what happened.”
This story has been exposed as a myth on multiple occasions, but that didn’t stop Trump using it to push his own agenda – then or now.
Not only was Trump’s reference to Pershing unhelpful, it also exposes the president’s enormous double standard on terrorism. In the last week, he has shown that he is prepared to call for violent revenge on jihadists - but will drag his feet when asked to verbally condemn the actions of white supremacists.
This attack happened two hours ago. It took you two days to read a speech supposedly condemning the violence in Charlottesville.— Pé Resists (@4everNeverTrump) August 17, 2017
In Barcelona when victims are intentionally hit by an automobile, Trump shouts "terrorism." In Charlottesville, it's ”both sides.”— ann marie (@annmarie309) August 17, 2017
Oh, so you knew "all the facts" about an attack in Barcelona within hours, but it took you two days to get the facts on Charlottesville?...— Jheison Romain Nieto (@jvromain) August 17, 2017
On 12 August, white nationalists descended on Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a rally they called “Unite the Right”.
The group, made up of the alt-right, militia, neo-Nazis and racists, formed the largest gathering of white nationalists in the country for decades, as they joined together to protest the upcoming removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.
The rally ended in violence and chaos, with nationalists reportedly shouting anti-immigrant, anti-semitic and racist slogans and attacking anti-fascist counter-protestors, while one man drove into a crowd of counter-protestors and killed one woman, named as Heather Hayer, while injuring some 19 others.
While the majority of the world – and social media – reacted with a mixture of appalled shock and defiance in the face of such open hatred, President Trump ignited fury by first taking almost three days to condemn the alt-right, before stating yesterday that there was blame “on both” sides for the violence.
“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides,” he said yesterday during a press conference.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and a group on the other side that was very violent.”
Trump has also refrained from calling the Charlottesville attack an act of terrorism, although some in his administration have.
Trump has always been quick to cite “radical Islamic terrorism” for attacks in the past.
It took him less than a day to respond to terrorist attacks in Paris, Manchester, England, and London, the last of which he used as a reason to plug his proposal for a travel ban halting refugees from entering the USA, as well as immigrants from seven “majority-Muslim countries,” including Syria, Somalia, and Iran.
While his rhetoric on “radical Islam” is often violent and sweeping, Trump proved to be far more diplomatic about the white supremacist and racist groups who gathered for the rally in Charlottesville, claiming that many of them were “fine people.”
Perhaps Trump needs to look to his predecessor and follow his good example: Obama has always made a point of prioritising compassion and solidarity above all else.
Because, as many have pointed out, “love trumps hate”.
Anyone with concerns for the safety of loved ones in Barcelona are being asked to contact the Consular Assistance team on 01-4082000.
Images: Twitter/Rex Features