By Robert A. Vella
Of all of President Trump‘s authoritarian abuses of power, none are more symbolic of a tyrant gone mad than what he did yesterday in reaction to the violence now tearing America apart over worsening racial and social injustices. First, like a psychotic who fears everyone and everything around him, Trump threatened state governors in a conference call by demanding that they brutally crackdown on the protests or face an incursion of U.S. military forces to do so ordered by him. Second, Trump ordered the District of Columbia’s police supported by National Guard troops to forcibly evict peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square across from the White House just to clear the area for him to have a photo-op at a nearby church.
Both of Trump’s actions were either blatantly illegal or threatened to be. U.S. law specifically prohibits the use of the U.S. military against the American people except under extreme and narrow circumstances which do not currently exist; and, the White House protesters had every right to be there because the curfew deadline imposed by the D.C. mayor had not been breached.
Afterwards, condemnation rained down on Trump from all sides as even Republicans recognized his fascist, dictatorial behavior.
In his demented mind, Trump might see a political opportunity. He may be thinking that he can shift public attention away from the coronavirus pandemic crisis by inciting a right-versus-left ideological war or better yet a white-versus-black race war (which white supremacists fervently want). Or, he might be simply overreacting out of fear like he often does. Or, Trump might be desperately lashing out at everyone around him like Adolf Hitler did during the end of his reign (see: ‘The German people deserve to die’: Hitler’s rant on how he was deceived by ‘everyone’ during his last days in Berlin bunker). In any case, it probably doesn’t matter what Trump is thinking. A president, he is not. A leader, he is not. A very dangerous lunatic, he surely is.
Here’s today’s news:
Officials in cities coast to coast implemented curfews for Monday night, hopeful that they would prevent another night of violent, chaotic demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd.
But the citywide orders weren’t enough to keep the peace between protesters and police in some places.
In Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a rare curfew after several nights of looting and vandalism, police fired tear gas outside the White House to move demonstrators away as President Donald Trump announced that he would deploy military troops across the country if states couldn’t contain the unrest on their own.
Photos and video appeared to show military helicopters flying below building height, kicking up debris and knocking branches off trees. The low-flying aircraft were reported to be used to disperse protesters.
Moments before President Donald Trump vowed to use military might to stop rioting, police backed by the National Guard stormed into a peaceful protest outside the White House and scattered a large group of people protesting unprovoked police violence against African Americans. At the time, none of the protesters or nearby journalists knew the reason for clearing the street. But the purpose became clear as soon as Trump finished his speech in the Rose Garden.
For those who’ve never visited the White House, it’s worth noting that immediately north of the building, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, is a public park called Lafayette Square. And on the other side of the park is St. John’s Episcopal Church, a congregation sometimes referred to as the Church of the Presidents given its history and location.
Yesterday, there was a group of peaceful protestors in Lafayette Square. There was no violence or unrest, and those assembled in the park had every right to be there. (There was a curfew in Washington, D.C., last night, but it had not yet taken effect.) Nevertheless, shortly after Trump touted himself as “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” law enforcement launched a rather extraordinary offensive against the demonstrators, which included, among other things, firing tear gas and flash-bang shells at those who had peaceably assembled.
Once Lafayette Square had been cleared by force, Trump walked across the park — the length of a city block — stood in front of St. John’s, held up a Bible, posed for the cameras, and then walked back. The Republican did not go inside the church; he did not read from the Bible; he did not pray or engage in any form of worship; he didn’t even visit with a pastor.
On the New York Times‘ online homepage this morning, there was a 13-word headline that summarized what transpired nicely: “Peaceful Rally Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Can Pose at a Church.” It’s apt because it’s precisely what happened.
Brendan Buck, a former top aide to Paul Ryan, told Politico, “We long ago lost sight of normal, but this was a singularly immoral act. The president used force against American citizens, not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities. We will all move on to the next outrage, but this was a true abuse of power and should not be forgotten.”
A senior White House official told Axios that when they saw the tear gas clearing the crowd for Trump to walk to the church with his entourage, “I’ve never been more ashamed. I’m really honestly disgusted. I’m sick to my stomach.”
‘Words of a dictator’: Trump’s threat to deploy military raises spectre of fascism – “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said after a call with President Donald Trump Monday that his administration is “determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division.”
Whitmer, who spoke out after Trump held a video-conference call with the nation’s governors in which he called on them to crack down on and “dominate” demonstrators protesting against police brutality, said she fears such an approach “will only lead to more violence and destruction.
Could President Trump order troops onto the streets of a major American city over the objections of local and state officials?
Trump threatened to do so Monday, saying that if governors and local officials failed to end civil unrest, he would deploy the military “to do the job for them.”
Normally, military troops are forbidden by law [i.e. The Posse Comitatus Act] to be involved in law enforcement within the U.S. But that prohibition has some exceptions. The main one involves the Insurrection Act, first passed early in the country’s history, under which a president can order active-duty troops to be used for domestic law enforcement if doing so is needed to suppress an insurrection or civil disturbance.
In most cases, the law allows the president to do that only if he is asked to do so by a state governor or legislature.
In most American cities, people of all races appear to be participating in the violence, vandalism and looting, particularly in Minneapolis, where a crowd burned the police department’s 3rd Precinct building last week and vandals were seen smashing windows and stealing items from stores. Multiracial coalitions also have marched peacefully. But in some cities, local officials have noted that black protesters have struggled to maintain peaceful protests in the face of young white men joining the fray, seemingly determined to commit mayhem.
In footage that spread widely online, a man identified as [20 year old Brian Jordan] Bartels, who faces charges of vandalism and rioting [in Pittsburgh], wore a bandanna emblazoned with the symbol of the Animal Liberation Front, a leaderless international resistance movement that pushes for animal rights. In the footage, he raised his middle fingers to black protesters who begged him to stop. At Bartels’s home in a Pittsburgh suburb, officers found spray paint and firearms, according to an arrest warrant reviewed by The Washington Post.
Similar questions have become acute from Austin, where a racial justice group on Sunday canceled a planned assembly for fear of violent escalation by unaffiliated activists, to Fargo, N.D., where police questioned four men carrying assault rifles to a protest site in a bid to protect businesses. In Denver, police officers commandeered firearms from anti-government gun enthusiasts who self-identify as “Boogaloo boys,” part of a far-right militia movement.
“These are people who are agent provocateurs,” Chas Moore, the executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition, said of the extremists joining the protests. He canceled his group’s demonstration, originally planned for Sunday, after the chaos of Saturday night. “These are extremists and anarchists, not right or left. They want complete annihilation of the system, and they’re at the forefront of the fires and the breaking of vehicles.”
The complexity was deepened when President Trump, with Attorney General William P. Barr’s backing, faulted anarchists and left-wing activists for the upheaval without furnishing any evidence.
On Monday, the president’s allies trumpeted news of the charges against Bartels, a day after the president said he would designate an anti-fascist collective known as antifa as a “terrorist organization,” though he has no apparent legal authority to do so.
A former friend of Bartels who corresponded with him for several years before they had a falling out in May said Bartels never once mentioned antifa, some of whose adherents favor aggressive tactics [to confront white supremacist demonstrators].
As protests over the killing of George Floyd roil the nation, journalists covering the news have been indiscriminately arrested, tear gassed or shot with rubber bullets by local law enforcement — at times even live on air.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an advocacy and research group that records reported attacks on journalists, says it is investigating over 100 instances of attacks on members of the press from just the last three days. The majority of those aggressions have been from police.