Trump on ‘Caravan’ Migrants: ‘They Want to Throw Rocks at Our Military, Our Military Fights Back’

Patrick Goodenough | November 2, 2018 | 4:25am EDT
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A Mexican riot policeman shields a mother and child from flying rocks during a clash between police and the migrant caravan on the border between Mexico and Guatemala on October 19, 2018. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

( – If any migrant trying to storm the U.S.-Mexico border throws rocks at U.S. troops deployed there, President Trump said Thursday he’s told the military to respond as they would when faced with firearms.

“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” he told reporters in the Oval Office, during a press briefing in which he also said he would sign an executive order next week, limiting the way in which applications for asylum are handled.

With thousands of troops being sent to the border to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Trump was asked whether he expected they would fire on migrants.

“I hope there won’t be that,” he replied. “But I will tell you this: Anybody throwing stones, rocks – like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military and Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico – we will consider that a firearm.”

“Because there’s not much difference, when you get hit in the face with a rock,” he added.

On Sunday, members of a second “caravan” of Central Americans hoping to make their way through Mexico to the United States, clashed with Mexican personnel when hundreds tried to force their way across a bridge on the Guatemala-Mexico border.

Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete Prida told reporters that personnel had been attacked with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks, and that some migrants had been armed with guns and Molotov cocktails.

(When a first caravan crossed the same border on October 19, participants also overwhelmed Mexican police. Some threw rocks at unarmed police, who used teargas in response.

That caravan, about 4,000-strong according to Mexico’s Interior Ministry on Thursday, was about 280 miles to the north-west, moving on foot or in vehicles through eastern Oaxaco province. Its current location is some 850 miles from the nearest U.S. border crossing, at McAllen, Texas.)

“They’re throwing rocks viciously and violently – you saw that three days ago – really hurting the military,” Trump said. “We’re not going to put up with that.”

“They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” he said. “When they’re throw rocks like they did at Mexican military and police, I say, ‘consider it a rifle.’”

A senior U.S. military commander told reporters in Washington Monday that of the more than 5,200 soldiers being sent to the southwest border this week, those units which are usually assigned with weapons, would be “deploying with weapons.”

A day after Sunday’s melee at the border, Mexican police arrested two Hondurans, aged 17 and 22, as they tried to open fire on federal police in the same area.

In a separate incident reported by the Interior Ministry, police on Tuesday arrested two other Honduran migrants, wanted in their home country in connection with three murders and narcotics offenses. They were flown back to Honduras to stand trial.

Rocks can kill

Rock-throwing as an act of protest has most commonly been associated with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, particularly since the “second intifada” that erupted in 2000, when images of Palestinians hurling rocks at Israeli police and soldiers became emblematic of the violent uprising.

A 2005 study in the journal Military Medicine examined injuries caused to Israeli soldiers at the hands of Palestinian rioters during the first four months of the second intifada, and found that 9.4 percent of injuries were caused by rocks or marbles, with injuries from rocks including open craniofacial fractures.

An earlier study (1992) in the same journal examined incidents of “ocular trauma” suffered by Israeli soldiers during the first intifada, between 1987-1989, when 11.3 percent of soldiers injured suffered eye injuries, and of those injuries, 58 percent were caused by rocks.

Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli border police at a checkpoint between northern Jerusalem and the West Bank. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

At least 14 Israelis are known to have been killed in incidents involving rocks thrown by Palestinians – either directly, or when losing control of a vehicle after coming under attack.

“There are a number of ways that a rock can prove lethal,” American historian Rafael Medoff wrote in a 2015 article.

“It can strike a passenger directly in the head, as happened, for example, to Esther Ohana, as she was delivering invitations to her wedding in 1983; and to 5-month-old Yehuda Shoham, as he was strapped in his infant car seat in 2001.”

“Or it can strike the driver, causing a fatal crash, as happened to the driver of the car in which 11-year-old Chava Wechsberg was a passenger, in 1993; and to Asher Palmer in 2011, killing him and his 1-year-old son.”

In 2015 Israel’s cabinet passed a proposal permitting an officer being attacked with rocks to open fire not just when his or her life is in danger, but if any lives are in danger.

A 1990 U.N. document on guidelines for policing states that when dispersing violent protests, “law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary.”

The document says officials should only use firearms in such cases, “in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives.”

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