President Donald Trump and his family visited the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this afternoon to pay respects to those affected by the Saturday shooting in the synagogue that left 11 dead.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers accompanied the president and his family inside. They came out at 5:01 p.m., after about 18 minutes.
Rabbi Myers led them down the Wilkins Avenue sidewalk and stopped at the memorial on the corner of Shady Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. One by one, the president and first lady moved down the line of memorial stars signifying the names of the 11 victims. Mr. Trump placed a stone at each memorial; the first lady placed a white rose.
Then the motorcade left for UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Oakland, where they entered for a private visit with wounded victims.
Air Force One touched down at 3:42 p.m at the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis. Mr. Trump exited the plane with First Lady Melania Trump, followed by his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner. The president's motorcade then traveled through Squirrel Hill.
Mr. Trump told Fox News Monday evening he would "go to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt" in the shooting this past Saturday at the synagogue.
Shortly before Mr. Trump arrived at the synagogue, a crowd was continuing to grow at Northumberland Street and Shady Avenue. Traffic slowed more than usual. Police told people to get out of the street and onto the sidewalk.
"I don't want to be here for Trump," one woman told a friend.
One man used strong language to criticize the president for indirectly causing the shooting. "We're burying our friends!"
A woman disagreed with him.
They calmed. Police radios crackled. Buses smoked past.
One man who said he lives nearby addressed one corner, saying, "I don't want to let Trump in. I don't think he should have a photo op on our grief."
Tensions spiked at this intersection as marchers coming from Beechwood Boulevard met police with sirens blazing and at least one man was wrestled away by officers.
Protest organizers using a microphone connected to speakers ordered the group, "Turn your back and follow the march!" "Turn your back and follow the march!" over and over.
The sirens stopped. The crowd calmed.
And the march proceeded down Northumberland, singing softly its prayer as before.
The Pittsburgh Public Safety Department asked residents and commuters to avoid the East End this afternoon and to be patient when encountering traffic delays due to temporary road closures for Mr. Trump's visit.
"We understand protests are planned, but we are confident all involved will spend today focusing on the victims and their families, some of whom are burying loved ones today," the department said in its statement.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declined a White House invitation to appear with Mr. Trump during the president's visit today, Peduto spokesman Timothy McNulty confirmed.
That's because the mayor's "sole focus is on the funerals" after the mass shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Mr. McNulty said Tuesday morning.
The White House also invited top leaders of the House and Senate to join the president in Pittsburgh but all declined. Their offices gave various reasons, although one Washington source familiar with the event plans said Mayor Bill Peduto's wishes played a role in their decisions.
A spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi confirmed that — along with similar postponement requests by other local officials -— was her reason for declining.
A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said the invitation came on Monday and he wasn't able to travel on such short notice.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's spokeswoman said the event conflicted with two events in Kentucky where he was scheduled to speak.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer's office also cited a scheduling conflict.
"The city's sole focus is on supporting the families," Mr. McNulty said. Mr. Peduto was to attend a service today for Cecil and David Rosenthal, two of the 11 people who died.
The Peduto administration said late Monday that the mayor would not appear with Mr. Trump. Earlier in the day, Mr. Peduto said the White House should consult with families before finalizing a visit.
He said a presidential visit right now would strain public safety resources in the city, asking that Mr. Trump hold off while funerals are happening. At least two were expected today.
The Public Safety Department's statement issued Tuesday afternoon said "We assure residents that Public Safety is prepared for this visit, thanks in part to assistance from multiple partner law enforcement agencies…."
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also is not meeting with Mr. Trump, county spokeswoman Amie Downs said in a message. Gov. Tom Wolf doesn't plan to appear with him, either. His campaign spokeswoman, Beth Melena, said the governor based his decision on input from the victims' families who told him they did not want the president to be there on the day their loved ones were being buried.
The White House has not released an itinerary for Mr. Trump's visit. Air Force One is expected to arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport shortly before 4 p.m. The president is traveling "to express the support of the American people and to grieve with the Pittsburgh community," the White House said in a statement Monday.
"Well, I'm just going to pay my respects," Mr. Trump told Fox News Channel's Laura Ingraham. "I'm also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt."
Mr. Trump has called the attack a "wicked act of mass murder" that "is pure evil, hard to believe and frankly something that is unimaginable." Anti-Semitism "must be confronted anywhere and everywhere it appears," he has said.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, firstname.lastname@example.org, @asmeltz. Bob Batz and Andrew Goldstein contributed to this report.