Mitt Romney Joins Protests ‘To Make Sure That People Understand That Black Lives Matter’

mitt romney at black lives matter protest

Sen. Mitt Romney joins a Black Lives Matter protest in Washington, D.C. on June 7, 2020. Photo via @MittRomney via Twitter.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) joined the protests in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, telling reporters that he was doing so “to make sure that people understand that Black Lives Matter.”

Romney appears to be the first Republican Senator to join the protests, which were sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and have now continued into their third week.

Romney joined a group of protesters who were organized by local pastors as part of a faith-based demonstration announced for this Sunday. Reporters on the scene described the group as growing to more than 1,000 people who peacefully carried signs (many with Biblical references on them), chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Do Justice,” and sang songs, including “This Little Light of Mine,” a classic American hymn that was adopted — and adapted — by civil rights protesters in the 1950s and 1960s.

The song wasn’t the only connection back to the Civil Rights Era. The organizers of today’s march deliberately intended to evoke the spirit of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

Just the day before, Romney himself had tweeted a photo of his father, former Gov. George Romney (R-MI), who had joined the civil rights marches in Detroit in the late 1960s.

Romney’s tweet mentioning his father was highlighted for praise by Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine reporter and contributor to the Times‘ 1619 Project.

The Utah Senator spoke briefly to Washington Post reporter Hannah Natanson, who was covering the protest, telling her that he had joined the protest because he sought “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

He had similar comments for NBC’s Haley Talbot: “We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality. And we need to stand up and say black lives matter.”

Romney’s participation does raise questions about whether it will further drive a wedge between him and other members of his party, specifically President Donald Trump, who has clashed with Democratic elected officials, like D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, over the protests and what should be the proper response to them. Earlier this year, Romney took a lot of heat from Trump and other members of his party for being the sole Republican vote to remove the president from office during the impeachment hearings.

For now, as noted above, Romney appears to be the lone Congressional Republican joining these protests, and seems very comfortable in his decision. His long-held conservative beliefs make him unlikely to join the Democratic Party, but he did receive some cheers from the left side of the aisle, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).

This is an issue where elected Republicans seem to be lagging behind their voters. FiveThirtyEight reported on several recent polls about the protests and how the Trump administration was handling them, and while Trump usually enjoys high approval ratings from Republicans on many issues, this was one where his ratings took a hit:

As for President Trump’s handling of the protests, Americans largely gave him a thumbs down. The CBS News/YouGov poll found that 32 percent approved of Trump’s response while 49 percent disapproved, and Reuters/Ipsos found that 33 percent approved while 56 percent disapproved. Although Trump usually has overwhelming backing from Republicans on most job approval questions, there were some signs that at least a few GOP voters were breaking with him on this issue. The CBS News/YouGov survey found that 65 percent approved of how he’s handling the situation — far lower than the 84 percent who approve of how he’s handling the coronavirus pandemic, for example — while 14 percent disapproved. Similarly, in the Reuters/Ipsos poll, 20 percent disapproved while 67 percent approved.

UPDATE: This article originally stated that Romney appeared to be the only Congressional Republican who had joined the protests. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican representing a Texas district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, recently joined a protest in Houston. Hurd announced last year that he had decided to not run for re-election and will retire from Congress in January at the end of only his third term.

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