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U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday more white people die at the hands of police than Black people, comments likely to further stoke racial tensions amid nationwide protests over racism and police brutality.

Asked in a CBS News interview why Black people were still dying at the hands of police, Trump said it was a “terrible question to ask.”

“So are white people. More white people, by the way,” the president said. “More white people.”

While police fatally shoot more white Americans in absolute numbers, Black people die at more than twice the rate of whites, according to a Washington Post database created in 2015. Since then, 1,301 Black people have been killed by police, a rate of 31 per million. Police have killed 2,495 white people — a rate of 13 per million.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 said: “African-American men and women, American Indian/Alaska Native men and women, and Latino men face higher lifetime risk of being killed by police than do their White peers.” The risk is highest for Black men, according to the study.

Protesters have sought police reform after the death in May of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, while in the custody of police in Minneapolis. Trump has said he believes Floyd’s case is an isolated one and not evidence of systemic racism in U.S. policing.

Trump’s comments in the wake of the protests have repeatedly stirred racial animus. Last month, the president retweeted, then deleted a video of one of his supporters shouting “white power.” He has also called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate.”

The president used the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which was used by a white Miami police chief to threaten civil rights protesters in the 1960s.

In the CBS interview, Trump also defended his support for the Confederate flag, calling it a “freedom of speech” issue. Many view the flag as a symbol of hate. Mississippi removed an image of the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag and the NASCAR auto racing circuit banned it at its races following the Floyd protests.”I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter, or anything else you want to talk about. It’s freedom of speech,” Trump said.

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