As Some Republicans Break With Trump Over Protests, Mitt Romney Posts Photo of Father Participating in a Civil Rights March

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney continued offering his support for the George Floyd-inspired protests against racism and police brutality Saturday, highlighting his father's own backing of 1960s U.S. civil rights campaigns.

A frequent critic of President Donald Trump, Romney encouraged Americans to support the rights of people who protest rather than attempting to quell such demonstrations by force. He posted a photograph of his late father, Republican Michigan Governor and and auto executive George W. Romney, as he marched alongside black civil rights protesters outside Detroit in the late 1960s.

"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,'" the Utah Republican 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.”

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 6, 2020

Romney's father, who died in 1995, was the chairman and president of American Motors Corporation before becoming the Republican Party governor of Michigan from 1969 to 1973. Former President Richard Nixon appointed the elder Romney as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a tenure in which the two often fought over Romney's ambitious plans to desegregate the suburbs and to work with black leaders to increase housing production for minorities.

The Utah senator's post comes as several Republican and military officials have broken with Trump on his hard-line stance against the protests after he labeled the demonstrators "thugs" and encouraged governors to crack down.

Moderate Republican and occasional critic of the president, Maine Senator Susan Collins, criticized Trump for reportedly using tear gas to disperse protesters in Washington in order to stage a photo shoot at a Lafayette Park church. Collins declined to meet with the president Friday during his visit to her state and told local news outlets: "It was painful to watch peaceful protesters be subjected to tear gas in order for the president to go to a church he's attended only once."

Newsweek reached out to Collins' office Saturday for comment.

Collins was joined by fellow Republicans, including Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Romney, in condemning Trump's protest response. "If your question is: should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo op? The answer is no," Scott told Politico recently.

Since Floyd's May 25 death and the civil unrest which followed, Romney, a former GOP presidential candidate, has publicly denounced the actions of the police while touting the protesters -- a near-opposite approach to that being taken by the current president.

"The George Floyd murder is abhorrent. Peaceful protests underscore the urgency of addressing injustices. But violence drowns the message of the protestors and mocks the principles of justice," Romney recently posted on his social media accounts. "No Americans should fear enmity and harm from those sworn to protect us. The death of George Floyd must not be in vain: Our shock and outrage must grow into collective determination to extinguish forever such racist abuse."

The senator also reminded Americans of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China three decades before and how in light of recent protests, "we must work to ensure the U.S. remains a champion for freedom, and a defender of those who stand for democracy and equality for all."

Newsweek reached out to Romney's Utah Senate office for any additional commentary Saturday.

george romney civil rights protests
Governor of Michigan, George W. Romney (1907 - 1995, centre) at the funeral of assassinated American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968), Atlanta, Georgia, 9th April 1968. ARCHIVE PHOTOS / Stringer/Getty Images