As protests that raged around the country reached the gates outside the White House yesterday, Donald Trump was rushed to a secure underground bunker to literally and figuratively hide away from the racial tensions that were boiling over on the street of America.
The protests were started in response to the death of a black man video recorded last Monday when a white police officer suffocated him while subduing him during an arrest.
Although that officer has now been arrested and charged with third-degree murder, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in over a dozen major cities to vent their anger at another public murder of a black man at the hands of a white officer whose actions fit a pattern of seemingly overt racism.
Some of the protests have sparked rioting, looting, and violence as usually happens when emotions run deep during large public demonstrations. Cars and buildings have been set ablaze, including a police station in Minneapolis where the brutal arrest took place. Stores have been looted and burned to the ground. The country is seething with anger.
National Guard soldiers have been mobilized and the military is on standby in case of large-scale violence that police can’t control.
The country is on fire, tensions are high, and the President of the United States has yet to address the nation to give us a vision forward and to calm the unrest that shows no signs of ebbing.
Instead, Donald Trump tweeted not-so-cryptic threats of violence, including when he assured the governor of Minnesota that the military is standing by to take action if necessary, and he invoked the words of the racist police chief of Miami in 1967 who said: “when the looting starts the shooting starts”.
(That saying was first used when Miami’s then-Chief of Police instituted a brutal police crackdown on civil rights activists. The term was also used by segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1968. Wallace also said that they didn’t have riots in his state because “first one of ’em to pick up a brick gets a bullet in the brain, that’s all.”)
Then the next day Trump announced that he would designate Antifa, the anti-Fascist left-wing movement, as a terrorist organization after reports that some of the ongoing protests including Antifa signs and tactics.
Trump knows that Antifa is not an actual group with a leader and membership, but instead it’s a movement that opposes Fascist and right-wing ideologies of homophobia, racism, and xenophobia. People that support the Antifa movement have demonstrated against rallies held by white supremacists and anti-gay rights groups.
Unfortunately, some Antifa protesters have used unacceptable violence and their extreme actions have been denounced by peaceful protest organizers. Many left-leaning activists dismiss Antifa as counterproductive to their goals, but Antifa has no leader or structure so it cannot be directly controlled.
But “Antifa” has also been used to falsely sow fear and suspicion online. This week Twitter announced that it had shut down several accounts that it says were operated by a white supremacist group posing as Antifa to encourage violence. Twitter said Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group, used one fake account, @Antifa_US to call for violent riots in white suburbs in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The hypocrisy of Trump’s move to label Antifa as a terrorist group is that Antifa confronts organized groups that have themselves been called out by the government as subversive, yet Trump hasn’t taken action to label any of those groups as home-grown terrorists.
For instance, the riots that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 were sparked by a rally called Unite the Right organized by white supremacist groups who objected to their City Council’s decision to remove various Civil War statues from public spaces.
(Let’s stop there for a minute. The planned rally was (1) in support of Civil War statues that (2) glorify the war fought by break-away states to defend slavery, and (3) was organized by the KKK, and neo-Nazi, white supremacist, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, neo-Fascist, and alt-right groups.)
The rally included groups of torch-carrying white supremacists chanting “Jews won’t replace us” and “White lives matter”.
One of the organizers of the rally was the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group founded in the US that has been designated as an illegal terrorist group by the UK government. Atomwaffen means nuclear weapon in German. The group has spread to the UK, Canada, Germany, the Baltic states, and parts of Europe. The group announced its founding on a neo-Nazi website and has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Counter-protesters, including Antifa supporters, eventually clashed with the rally sponsors. One peaceful protester was later killed when an avowed white-supremacist and neo-Nazi sympathizer deliberately drove his car into peaceful protesters and ran her over.
Even with proof that organized white supremacist groups exist and attend public rallies, Donald Trump has never taken any action to label any of those groups as terrorist organizations. Instead, he referred to protesters at the Charlottesville rally as “good people on both sides”.
Trump’s comments after similar protests during the Civil War statue rallies has been to equate the counter-protesters with the instigators, not distinguishing one from another. He doesn’t seem to grasp that the counter-protesters are trying to stop violent and hateful rallies, even as they too sometimes lead to violence.
President Trump has not only failed to take action against white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, but his Justice Department has all but stopped investigating abusive police cases against minority suspects.
During his time in office, Trump’s Justice Department has only opened one investigation into police brutality, compared to 12 such investigations under President George W. Bush and 15 under Barack Obama.
Trump’s first Attorney General, former Alabama US Senator Jeff Sessions, put policies in place that severely restrict prosecutors’ ability to seek court-enforced agreements with police agencies that mandate reforms.
Just this week, President Trump held a conference call with governors from around the country, where he criticized those states affected by protests for not being tough enough on rioters.
“You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” Trump told the governors.
The words from the President are nearly identical to those used by Miami’s police in 1967 when Chief Headley used police dogs and shotguns to disburse rioters that were protesting abusive police tactics, much like the current protests now.
When protesters organized outside of the White House on Sunday, Trump fled to his secure underground bunker and tweeted that if they got too close they “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.” Instead of calming the protesters, he seemed to taunt them.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a message to New York writing, “NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD. The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”
Most of us remember when businessman Donald Trump took out full-page ads in the New York newspapers in 1989 to call for the reinstatement of the death penalty after five black and Latino teenagers were charged and convicted of raping and beating a white woman in Central Park. In the end, the actual perpetrator was later positively identified using DNA evidence, but Trump will still, to this day, not apologize that he contributed to the toxic environment that saw those five innocent teenagers wrongfully imprisoned for over 20 years.
Last year, in response to criticism from four Congresswomen of color -New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusetts – Trump responded by tweeting that the four “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” and asked, “why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Pressley were all born in America, and Omar came to the US from Somalia when she was a baby and became a US citizen. This IS where they came from.
In response to Trump’s race-baiting tweet about the Congresswomen, the neo-Nazi operator of one of the most viewed racist and anti-Semitic websites on the Internet tweeted, “This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM we elected him for.”
It’s difficult to accept that our elected President could be a racist.
But it’s even harder to continue to make excuses for his comments and actions that always seem to land on the side of white supremacists, racists, and bigots. Trump’s tendencies toward apathy, at best, or outright contempt, at worst, for people of color are hard to dismiss as unintentional or unrelated.
Over his lifetime, Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated acts of racial bias toward others he seems to lump together as enemies of society, criminals, or “scum” as he likes to call them. He clearly thinks they are not at his level and that they don’t deserve to be treated equally.
If his words and actions fell upon people in proportional numbers to their racial statistics one might say he’s an equal opportunity offender.
But when the focus of his hatred and vitriol lands nearly exclusively on poor minority communities and people of color, in particular, it seems rightfully proper to call him a racist.
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.