PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP/CBS) — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has received the endorsement of a New England group that represents police and corrections officers.
The New England Police Benevolent Association‘s executive board voted Thursday evening to support the billionaire businessman, who has been leading opinion surveys.
The backing comes as Trump remains under scrutiny for his call for a ban all Muslims from entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
The proposal has been panned as xenophobic and un-American by many of Trump’s rivals, Republican leaders and others around the world.
The group’s executive director, Jerry Flynn, says the benevolent association represents nearly 5,000 members from about 200 locals across the region.
“Listen, our message very clear: It’s what is the next president of the United States going to do to unite this country in an effort to save police officers? Because it’s open season on police officers,” Flynn said before the vote.
“Police forces throughout the country have had a hard time. A lot of people killed,” said Trump, his voice still hoarse with a bout of laryngitis.
He went on to call for the death penalty for any person who kills a cop.
The private event attracted dozens of protesters outraged by the billionaire businessman’s proposal to ban Muslims.
“It kind of makes me scared,” said one protester. “Like what if he does win what will become of America?”
Some of the protesters held anti-police signs outside of the event.
“Those are the same people who stood out in the middle of 93, laying down on the sidewalk, saying black lives matter. Well you know what? Police lives matter, all lives matter, as far as we’re concerned,” Jerry Flynn said of the protesters. “I’m telling you tonight we endorsed a candidate who best serves our membership.”