NEW YORK – The Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday accused President Donald Trump of "encouraging police violence" during a speech this week on Long Island to an audience of uniformed officers.
The activist preacher tore into the Republican at the weekly gathering of his National Action Network in Harlem.
A day earlier, the president spoke to law enforcement professionals at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Trump said violence and murder on U.S. soil by the MS-13 gang linked to El Salvador justify a strong police response.
The president said his administration is removing gang members who've been terrorizing communities on Long Island and other parts of the country from the United States. He added, "Now, we're getting them out anyway, but we'd like to get them out a lot faster, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don't be too nice."
That means, for instance, shielding their heads from being bumped while getting into a police vehicle, Trump said.
Sharpton responded on Instagram: "As if the reprehensible statement by President Donald Trump encouraging police violence wasn't enough, he used a slur against Irish regarding "Paddy Wagons."
That expression was used in 19th century New York, referring to impoverished Irish immigrants when they were arrested and placed in police vans.
Sharpton called Trump's comments "reprehensible." They were "a reckless disregard for the law, and set a tone that is dangerous and biased in this country."
The Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement after Trump's speech that it has strict rules and procedures about how prisoners should be handled. "Violations of those rules and procedures are treated extremely seriously. As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners."
James Burke, the department's former chief, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison last November for beating a handcuffed man in an interrogation room.