Donald Trump told Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to “go back” to where she was from - so she did, to an incredible hero’s welcome in her home city.
Just when we thought the fallout from President Donald Trump’s vicious attack on four Democratic congresswoman couldn’t get any uglier, an inaugural re-election campaign rally has exposed the shocking levels of racism and xenophobia at large in American society.
At a campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, to kick off his 2020 presidential bid, Trump renewed his assault on the four progressive legislators known as The Squad, and levelled his attentions at one woman in particular, Representative Ilhan Omar.
For context, the POTUS sparked widespread condemnation when he kickstarted a hate-filled Twitter tirade claiming that Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Trump also asserted that the four freshmen lawmakers, who are all women of colour, “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” despite the fact that three are US-born citizens, and the fourth, Omar, was naturalised in 2000.
The controversy drew messages of support from a range of notable politicians and celebrities around the world, who roundly denounced Trump’s racially-provoked attacks, which are intensifying as the 2020 presidential race hits its stride.
In the wake of the shocking incident, Omar defied her critics with a sharply worded rebuke to Trump, defending the right of US citizens’ to criticise the president without fearing for their safety.
“As much as he’s spewing his fascist ideology on stage, telling US citizens to go back because they don’t agree with his detrimental policies for our country, we tell people that here in the United States: dissent is patriotic,” the Democrat told reporters.
“Here in the United States, disagreement is welcome, debate is welcomed and especially in the people’s House all of our voices are uplifted and heard,” she continued.
Later that day, Omar flew home to Minnesota where she was given a rousing homecoming at the airport from supporters cheering “welcome home Ilhan.”
At a townhall meeting on universal healthcare, Omar told the crowds it was “really good to be home”, urging people not to get distracted by Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric.
“I know there are a lot of people that are trying to distract us now. But I want you to all to know that we are not going to let them…You all send me to Washington to do the important work of progressing our country,” she said.
Meanwhile, at a press conference at the White House, Trump attempted to distance himself from the seething rallygoers, telling reporters: “I would say that I was not happy with it. I disagreed with it.”
“But I didn’t say that - they did. And I disagreed,” he added, despite video evidence clearly showing that he made no efforts whatsoever to stop the chants, and even paused for 11 seconds to enjoy them before continuing his speech.
The appalling incident occurred at his inaugural re-election campaign rally in North Carolina, when Trump doubled down on his calls for The Squad to leave the country, branding them “hate-filled extremists”.
“Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” he began. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’”
Trump then singled out Ilhan Omar to stoke the raucous crowd with further toxic rhetoric. “Representative Omar blamed the United States for the terrorist attacks on our country,” he claimed, without citing any evidence.
“She looks down with contempt on the hard-working Americans and saying that ‘ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country,’” he continued, as the conservative, largely-white crowd booed.
“And obviously and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds,” he added.
In one of the most chilling moments of Trump’s presidency to date, the crowd then began chanting “send her back!” in reference to the congresswoman, who arrived almost 30 years ago as a child refugee of war from Somalia.
Within hours, the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan was trending across the world, with many prominent politicians and public figures taking to social media to denounce Trump’s words and pledge their support for Omar.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was one of the first on the scene to condemn Trump, tweeting: “This president is desperate. Calling out his racism, xenophobia, and misogyny is imperative. But he’s trying to divide us and distract from his own crimes, and from his deeply unpopular agenda of letting the wealthy and well-connected rip off the country. We must do more.”
“We must call out those who remain silent. We must initiate impeachment proceedings to hold him accountable. And we must build an unstoppable grassroots movement that resoundingly defeats not just Trump, but complicit Republicans everywhere,” the presidential hopeful continued.
Meanwhile Senator Kamala Harris wrote a scathing rebuke, announcing, “It’s vile. It’s cowardly. It’s xenophobic. It’s racist. It defiles the office of the President. And I won’t share it here. It’s time to get Trump out of office and unite the country.”
It was Cardi B that pithily summed up the whole controversy, sharing a photo of Omar wearing a brightly coloured hijab on her Instagram alongside the caption: “You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation,” a lyric from Beyoncé’s 2016 hit song Formation.
It’s not the first time the Grammy-winning rapper has showed her support for Omar, or denounced the Trump administration. Earlier in the week, she posted a photoshopped Rolling Stone cover featuring Omar, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and presidential candidate Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to her Instagram Story.
In the midst of the firestorm, Omar made it clear that she intended to ignore the racist rhetoric, tweeting an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise, one of the poet’s most famous works. “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise,” the tweet read.
Omar followed up with a defiant photo of herself standing in the House of Representatives with the caption: “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”
Even in the face of Omar’s resilience, and the outpouring of solidarity for the Minnesota politician, it must not be forgotten that Trump made absolutely no efforts to stop the chants, and even thanked the Greenville for hosting the rally later that evening. It must not be forgotten that Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric calling for the deportation of a US lawmaker works as a distraction from serious political issues. And it should not be forgotten that this presidential attack has real and dangerous consequences for Omar, the minority congresswomen working to serve the public, and the communities of colour suffering under the US administration.