Wearing a mask and seemingly unrecognized by many of his fellow marchers., Utah senator Mitt Romney joined more than 1,000 protestors in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, tweeting out of a photo of himself mid-march with the caption, “Black Lives Matter.”
The former Republican presidential candidate and increasingly vocal critic of President Donald Trump told the Washington Post that he joined the march because 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, former Michigan governor George Romney, participating in a civil rights protest in the 1960s among signs reading, “The Freedoms We Lose May Be Your Own” and “A House Knows No Prejudice.” Romney tweeted: “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,’ he said. ‘We must eliminate the problems from which they stem.’”
Although Romney’s tweet from Sunday’s march was met with 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, retweeting 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.” Longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens 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 representative 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.”
The former CBS anchor Dan Rather retweeted Romney’s photo, adding, “This matters,” while Kamala Harris shared the video, writing, “We need more of this.”
One person, surprisingly, unheard from was Donald Trump. Given the fractious history between the two, one would have expected the president to weigh in on Twitter, especially since Romney’s appearance at Sunday’s march came the day after the publication of a New York Times story that some top Republicans, including the former secretary of state Colin Powell, as well as Romney, would not vote for Trump in November. (Romney is reportedly considering voting for the same write-in candidate as in 2016: his wife, Ann.)
Romney, of course, was the only Republican senator who voted convict the president of abuse of power during the impeachment trial earlier this year. Trump responded to that vote by attacking Romney as a “failed presidential candidate.”
More recently, when Romney criticized Trump’s firing of multiple inspectors general, tweeting it was “a threat to accountable democracy and a fissure in the constitutional balance of power,” the president took to Twitter with a one-word response: “LOSER!”