President Barack Obama received a frosty welcome Friday when he traveled to Roseburg, Oregon, to meet privately with survivors and loved-ones of nine people killed in a mass shooting there last week.
Hundreds of people, including some holding posters reading “Obama go home” and “Prayers not politics,” lined the streets as Obama’s motorcade passed.
Obama was met at the airport by Governor Kate Brown, and they travelled together to a meeting with survivors and the families of the people who died in the shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC) on October 1.
In brief remarks after spending about one hour in the meeting, he said the families wanted to communicate how much they appreciate the help they’ve received from the UCC community and the country.
Obama, who has made several similar trips after mass shootings, said at some point the United States will have to find a way to prevent such tragedies from occurring with such regularity.
“We’re going to have to come together as a country, but today is about the families,” Obama said. He then left for a political fund-raiser in Seattle.
Many people in the rural town support gun ownership, and those who turned out to oppose to his visit called it “insensitive” because of its political message.
Michelle Finn, one of the organizers of the protest, accused Obama of taking the agony of families “and basically [saying] no matter what you are going through … I’m going to take your personal pain and use it for my political agenda.”
She said the problem was mental health and not guns.
“This is a man who needed help and didn’t get it,” Finn said on CNN.
The shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, shot himself after killing the nine students. Authorities later found 14 firearms legally acquired by the gunman and a family member.
In the wake of the shootings, Obama bemoaned the fact that such mass shootings had become “routine” in the US, and made a point that he would “politicize” the issue “because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.”