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Trump pivots from racially charged vitriol to a call for national unity

Trump covered topics ranging from the border wall to the events in Charlottesville. (Aug. 23, 2017) (Sign up for our free video newsletter here http://bit.ly/2n6VKPR)

A day after stoking the nation’s racial tensions at a political rally in Phoenix, President Trump set aside his anger and called for healing “the wounds that divide us.”

“We are not defined by the color of our skin, the figure on our paycheck or the party of our politics,” Trump told an American Legion convention Wednesday in Reno. “We are defined by our shared humanity, by our citizenship in this magnificent nation and by the love that fills our hearts.”

Trump’s subdued speech, read from a teleprompter, contrasted sharply with his ad-libbed tirade Tuesday night in Phoenix, where he told cheering supporters that the news media had misreported his reaction to the recent deadly violence at a neo-Nazi and white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump omitted the statements that sparked outrage across the political spectrum — that some “very fine people” were marching alongside the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and “many sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville.

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In Reno, Trump referred only elliptically to the controversy.

“It is time to heal the wounds that divide us and to seek a new unity based on the common values that unite us,” he told the crowd.

About 1,000 protesters gathered outside the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, where Trump spoke. Jeffrey Mehoves, 61, a Vietnam veteran and retired deputy sheriff from Sparks, said he came out to voice his anger about Trump’s attempt to ban transgender soldiers from the military.

“I don’t believe Trump has the right to tell people they cannot serve this country, no matter if they’re gay, transgender or whatever,” Mehoves said. “Especially when he never served.”

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Police used dump trucks to close the streets surrounding the convention center and put up barricades to keep protests away from the hall. Demonstrators shouted “No hate, not Trump” and “Impeach 45.” Police reported no serious incidents.

American Legion members said they had no problem with people marching in the streets. “Happy protest day — that’s what we fought for,” said Tom Goodin of Jefferson City, Mo., a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam.

Trump paid tribute to veterans in his remarks. He reminded the crowd of actions he has taken to improve the quality of service by the Veterans Administration. He also cast himself as a champion of the armed forces.

“I am proud to report that we have worked with Congress to achieve a dramatic increase in defense spending this year,” he said.

Finnegan reported from Los Angeles and Willon from Reno.

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

@finneganLAT

phil.willon@latimes.com

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@philwillon

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UPDATES:

1:10 p.m.: This article was updated with details of the protest outside the convention center where Trump spoke.

12:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details of Trump’s speech from Reno.

This article was originally published at 9:40 a.m.


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