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America Divided: Heartland Voters Shrug Off Global Uproar Over Immigration Ban

(Reuters) – Many of President Donald Trump’s core political supporters had a simple message on Sunday for the fiercest opponents of his immigration ban: Calm down.

The relaxed reaction among the kind of voters who drove Trump’s historic upset victory — working-class residents of Midwest and the South — provided a striking contrast to the uproar that has gripped major coastal cities, where thousands of protesters flocked to airports where immigrants had been detained.

In the St. Louis suburb of Manchester, Missouri, 72-year-old Jo Ann Tieken characterized the president as bringing reason into an overheated debate.

“Somebody has to stand up, be the grown up, and see what we can do better to check on people coming in,” she said. “I’m all for everybody to stop and take a breath … Just give it a chance.”

By executive order on Friday, Trump banned immigration from seven Muslim majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – and temporarily halted the entry of refugees.

In the electoral strongholds for Trump, residents seemed nonplussed about the uproar flashing across their television screens. They shrugged off concerns about botched execution, damage to foreign relations, and legal challenges across the country.

In New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities, Trump’s action set off an outpouring of anger.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, evoked an image of the Statue of Liberty weeping. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York teared up himself on camera as he seethed over the “mean-spirited and un-American” immigration ban.

Veterans in government agencies, including the Homeland Security and State departments, blasted Trump’s team for what they called slipshod planning and scant interagency communication, criticism the White House rejected.

At airports, security officials also struggled to consistently enforce vague rules.

But allegations of operational or administrative blunders may do little to dampen enthusiasm for a president who rose to power on a populist and protectionist platform, political analysts said.

Louise Ingram, a 69-year-old retiree from Troy, Alabama, said she forgave the new administration a few “glitches,” such as widespread confusion over treatment of green card holders, as it moved to protect U.S. citizens from attacks.

“I’m not opposed to immigrants,” she said. “I just want to make sure they are safe to come in.”

FEAR OF EUROPE

A senior Trump administration official said political considerations had little to do with the executive orders. They rather represent a reaction to the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California; the Boston Marathon bombing; and multiple attacks by radicalized groups in Europe.

“The reality is that the situation that exists today in parts of France, Germany, and parts of Belgium is not a situation that we want replicated inside the United States,” one official told Reuters.

Candace Wheater, a 60-year-old retired school cafeteria worker from Spring Lake, Michigan, also referenced the attacks in Brussels and Paris.

“Look at what’s happening in Europe,” she said. “I don’t dare travel there, out of fear.”

Steve Hirsch, 63, from Manassas, Virginia, drove to Washington’s Dulles airport on Sunday to pick somebody up, rather than to protest as hundreds of others did.

He said he supported Trump’s order. “A country is not a country if it doesn’t have borders,” he added.

He lauded Trump’s actions as a calculated step toward the larger goal of tightening border security.

“He probably went as far as he thought he could,” Hirsch said. “You can’t ban everybody in the world, but I think it’s prudent considering the conditions in certain places in the world.”

FIRM BASE OF SUPPORT

Trent Lott, a former Senate Republican leader from Missouri who is now a lawyer in Washington, D.C., said the orders made sense to “working-class Americans in the real world.”

“Out in the rest of the country, people are excited to see the president moving forward with securing the border,” he said.

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato agreed that the weekend protests over the executive orders would not hurt Trump politically.

“His base is as firm as ever,” he said. “What he’s lost in the very early polls is the Republicans who were never Trumpers and ended up voting for Trump.”

Trump opponents have succeeded in winning some early court decisions that could undermine the practical impact of his executive orders, but Sabato said his base would perceive those as attacks from liberal elites.

Trump could eventually lose support if he fails to keep promises important to regions that supported him, such as delivering jobs to the so-called Rust Belt, the Midwestern states dotted by dying factory towns.

DEEP DIVISIONS

Whatever Trump ultimately accomplishes, his election has ushered in a new extreme of political polarization to an already deeply divided country.

“I just have not found a single person who has any neutrality at all about Donald Trump,” Sabato said.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 40-year-old teacher Trista Carles said she had been ordered to keep her views about Trump out of the classroom.

“We were told to be Switzerland,” she said. “We’re not allowed to take any sides or views.”

She has her own opinions, of course, and said she appreciated that Trump, in his blunt way, gave voice to them “with no sugar-coating.”

“I think it’s just too easy to get into our country and stay illegally,” she said. “I feel like he is going to – to the best of his abilities – make a lot of things he said happen.”

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Doina Chiacu, Steve Holland and Lacey Ann Johnson in Washington and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Writing by Brian Thevenot; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

IMAGE: Pro-Trump demonstrators yell slogans during protest against the travel ban imposed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order, at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ted Soqui

Women Marching Against Trump Plan Next Step

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After she spends Saturday marching in Washington among an expected 200,000 women protesting the presidency of Donald Trump on his first full day in office, Amy Davis-Comstock plans to take her first steps toward her own possible run for office.

The 50-year-old resident of Saginaw, Michigan, is part of a sharp increase in U.S. women signing up for courses run by political activist groups aimed at helping them mount campaigns for mostly low-level political offices.

Groups including Emily’s List, which supports Democratic women candidates, and nonpartisan VoteRunLead and Ignite report that online and in-person classes that typically see a few dozen participants are now attracting hundreds of women newly interested in politics.

“This election really made me realize that we need to have really good candidates,” Davis-Comstock said in a phone interview.

Davis-Comstock, who works in Saginaw’s unemployment office and is the mother of a teenaged daughter, said she was considering running for her local school board or county commission.

On Sunday, she plans to attend a class in Washington by Emerge America, which recruits and trains Democratic women interested in seeking office.

GALVANIZING IMPACT

Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election proved particularly galvanizing for women for a number of reasons, activists said.

The Republican New York businessman defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated for the White House by a major political party.

He also aroused controversy during the campaign with demeaning comments about women, including remarks in a leaked video in which he could be heard bragging about groping women and making unwanted sexual advances.

Trump also spoke out against abortion rights and pledged to defund reproductive healthcare provider Planned Parenthood.

Despite the backlash over those comments, Trump won 53 percent of the vote among white women.

The Trump transition team did not respond to requests by Reuters for comment about the women’s march.

Trump has denied that he is anti-woman in campaign comments in which he said he would be “really good for women.” He also apologized for the leaked video remarks and categorized them simply as “locker room talk.”

‘MAD AS HELL’

Women, who account for almost 51 percent of the U.S. population, are sharply underrepresented in public office across the country, particularly at the state and national levels. There are only five female governors among the 50 states and women make up about 20 percent of the U.S. Congress.

“Women run for office when they want to fix something or when they’re mad as hell,” said Alexandra De Luca, a spokeswoman for Emily’s List.

That group is holding a political training session for 500 women marchers on Sunday, a larger version of an event that has typically attracted 30 to 40 women over the past 20 years.

A monthly online course offered by VoteRunLead for women called: “This is How You Run for Office” swelled to 1,103 participants in December and 1,151 in January from an average of about 50 in the months before the election, said founder Erin Vilardi.

On Sunday, the group is hosting an event with Planned Parenthood, one of the sponsors of the women’s march, to entice women who “aren’t already thinking about running for public office,” Vilardi said.

California-based Ignite, which trains teenagers and young women with political aspirations, reported that 100 high school teachers from across the country had asked about purchasing the organization’s curriculum, according to the group’s chief program officer, Sara Guillermo.

That was up sharply from the 10 teachers who expressed interest in the six months before the election.

The groups focus on women running for local offices as the natural stepping-off point for political careers.

The surge in interest has not been limited to Democratic women.

Maggie’s List, which supports conservative female candidates, has also seen an increase in interest from donors and aspiring women politicians since the election, said National Executive Director Missy Shorey.

“This election was a huge wake-up call for people,” Shorey said, adding the group had been approached by conservative Trump supporters and opponents.

“Sitting it out means that you’re leaving it in other people’s hands,” she said.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Demonstrators chant in protest against the election of Republican Donald Trump as President of the United States, at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. November12, 2016.  REUTERS/David Becker

New York City Commuter Train Derails In Brooklyn, Injuring 37

NEW YORK (Reuters) – At least 37 people have suffered non-life-threatening injuries in a New York City commuter train derailment on Wednesday during peak morning commuting hours, city officials said.

Dozens of emergency crews swarmed Atlantic Terminal in the borough of Brooklyn after the Long Island Railroad train went off the tracks at about 8:30 a.m. local time inside the busy transportation hub, the New York City Fire Department said.

The nature of the injuries was not immediately known, and the incident was under investigation, police Detective Ahmed Nasser said.

Police and firefighters, some holding stretchers, could be seen entering the terminal as emergency vehicles blocked traffic.

Commuters, meanwhile, described a frightening and chaotic scene on social media.

“People flying everywhere,” Serena Janae, who said she was a passenger on the derailed train, wrote on Facebook.

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration said it was sending investigators to the scene.

Atlantic Terminal, which also connects commuters to nine city subway lines, is one of New York’s busiest stations.

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, David Shepardson and Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lisa Von Ahn)

IMAGE: Emergency vehicles gather at the Atlantic Avenue Terminal after a commuter train derailed during the Wednesday morning commute, in New York, U.S., January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Oatis

Betty Shelby Turns Herself In For Killing Of Terence Crutcher, Is Bonded Out

(Reuters) – A white Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer, who fatally shot an unarmed black man whose vehicle had broken down and blocked a street last week, turned herself in to authorities on a manslaughter charge early on Friday, jail records showed.

Betty Shelby, 42, was booked into the Tulsa County Jail just after 1:00 a.m. local time after being charged on Thursday with first-degree manslaughter in the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher.

Shelby was released on $50,000 bond and is scheduled for an initial court appearance on Sept. 30.

Court papers filed by the Tulsa County office accuse Shelby of overreacting and escalating the situation that led to the shooting of Crutcher last Friday. If convicted, she faces at least four years in prison, lawyers said.

The incident, which was captured on police videos, has intensified scrutiny over the use of excessive force and claims of racial bias by U.S. law enforcement officials against minorities.

Charlotte in North Carolina has seen three nights of protests, some of them violent, after the fatal shooting of a black man by police there on Tuesday.

In two videos provided by Tulsa police, Crutcher can be seen with his hands in the air shortly before he was shot.

Tulsa police have said Crutcher was unarmed and there was no weapon in the vehicle. They released the videos, one of which was taken from a police helicopter and the other from a dashboard camera in a patrol car, in a bid for transparency.

Shelby said she was traveling to another call when she came upon Crutcher, whose broken-down SUV was blocking a road. She said he did not respond to her questions and did not respond to her commands to stop as he walked to his vehicle with his hands in the air, it said.

(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Photo: Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Officer Betty Shelby, 42, charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, is shown in this Tulsa County Jail booking photo in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., September 23, 2016.  Courtesy Tulsa County Jail/Handout via REUTERS

Mosque of Orlando Gunman Set On Fire In Arson Attack

(Reuters) – The Florida mosque where Omar Mateen, who committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, prayed was damaged on Monday in an arson attack, investigators said.

Mateen was killed by law enforcement officials after fatally shooting 49 people and wounding 53 others in a gay nightclub in Orlando in June.

Local law enforcement officers received reports of flames rising from the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, located about 100 miles (161 km) southeast of Orlando, at about 12:30 a.m. EDT, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Major David Thompson told reporters at a news conference. No one was injured.

The attack occurred on one of the holiest Muslim holidays.

Surveillance video showed a person approach the mosque moments before the blaze erupted, he said.

“Immediately after the individual approached, a flash occurred and the individual fled the area,” Thompson said.

Investigators will work to enhance the footage to identify the suspect, he said.

Mateen told police in a 911 call that he had pledged his allegiance to the head of the Islamic State militant group, though investigators do not believe he had any help from outside organizations.

Shortly after the massacre, the mosque in Fort Pierce was identified as Mateen’s place of worship. It has reported receiving multiple threats of violence and intimidation. In June a motorcycle gang circled the center and shouted at its members, and in July a Muslim man was beaten outside the mosque.

Thompson said investigators were still seeking a motive for the attack and were considering a connection with the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Sunday.

“I would not want to speculate, but certainly that is in the back of our minds,” he said.

The Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, a major Muslim holiday, is being celebrated on Monday and also could have prompted the attack, Thompson said.

The mosque temporarily relocated its morning prayers for Eid al-Adha, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Photo: A view of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, a center attended by Omar Mateen who attacked Pulse nightclub in Orlando, in Fort Pierce, Florida, U.S. on June 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Brown/File Photo

Darren Seals: Ferguson Activist Found Dead In Burning Car With Gunshot Wound

(Reuters) – Missouri detectives have not determined a motive or identified any witnesses in an investigation into the death of a man who led protests in the city of Ferguson following the fatal 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a law enforcement officer, police said on Wednesday.

Protest leader Darren Seals, 29, was found shot inside a burning car in the village of Riverview, about five miles east of Ferguson, early on Tuesday, St. Louis County Police said in a statement.

Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, gained national attention because of rioting after the August 2014 shooting of Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by white police officer Darren Wilson. Most protests were peaceful, but violence erupted again when a grand jury decided not to bring charges against Wilson.

A federal investigation later found patterns of racial discrimination by Ferguson police.

The demonstrations helped to coalesce the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.

“I don’t recall anyone having a longer protest, a more productive protest, a more creative protest than what we did,” Seals said in an interview with MTV released in November 2014. “I don’t think people will ever really appreciate what we did until years from now.”

Hours before Seals‘ death, he posted on Twitter about Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers National Football League quarterback who protested racial injustice and police brutality by declining to stand for the national anthem, and the U.S. presidential election. In his Twitter profile, Seals described himself as a “businessman, revolutionary, activist, unapologetically BLACK, Afrikan in AmeriKKKa, fighter, leader.”

Police have not determined a motive for the crime or identified any witnesses, Sergeant Shawn McGuire said. McGuire declined to say in which part of Seals‘ body he was shot.

County police said officers were first called to investigate a burning vehicle in Riverview. “When the fire was extinguished, a deceased male subject was located inside of the vehicle,” the department said in a statement.

Seals, whose last-known address was in St. Louis, was identified as the victim.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; editing by Grant McCool)

Photo: An undated photo of Darren Seals from his facebook account. Darren Seals via Facebook/Handout via REUTERS