Wearing a mask and seemingly unrecognized by many of his fellow marchers., Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate and an increasingly vocal critic of President Donald Trump, joined more than 1,000 protestors in a Washington, D.C., on Sunday, tweeting out of photo of himself in mid-march with the caption, “Black Lives Matter,”
In a brief interview with a reporter from the Washington Post, Romney said he had joined the march, made up largely of evangelicals, because he said he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.” Other U.S. senators, including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, have joined various protests in the nation’s capital in the past week, but Romney is apparently the first Republican senator to do so.
An aide to Romney told CNN that the senator’s participation was “spontaneous,” adding that the senator had come across a group of 1,000 or so evangelicals from the D.C. area near the Capitol and decided to join their march for an hour and a half.
On Saturday, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come the next day, Romney had tweeted a photo of his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, participating in a Civil Rights protest in the 1960s, while a placard behind him read, “The Freedoms We Lose May Be Your Own” and “A House Knows No Prejudice.” Tweeted Romney: “This is my father, George Romney, participating in a Civil Rights march in the Detroit suburbs during the late 1960s—’Force alone will not eliminate riots.’ We must eliminate the problems from which they stem.'”
Although Romney’s tweet from Sunday’s march was met by derision and some personal attacks by Trump supporters, others on social media were quick to praise the Utah senator. “I give @MittRomney a lot of credit and respect for standing up when practically no one else in his party has,” tweeted the actor Ben Stiller. “Hopefully others will stand up with him. #BlackLivesMatter.”
The MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell, tweeting out a video of Romney marching, wrote, “I’ve watched this over and over in awe of the movement that has moved Mitt Romney to follow in his father’s footsteps as a civil rights marcher,” while the longtime Republican strategist Stuart Spencer tweeted “I just would like to know what other Republicans, many whom I helped elect, will say when their kids or grandkids ask them why they didn’t join @MittRomney?” And California Rep. Eric Swalwell, briefly a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president this year, tweeted, “Thank you, Senator. We haven’t seen a lot of GOP courage in 2020, but you have consistently shown it — from voting to remove @realDonaldTrump to being an ally of #BlackLivesMattters. Your leadership makes a difference.”