Although close advisers urge him to be more conciliatory in the escalating domestic crisis after the deadly Police operation in Minneapolis have advised, gives U.S. President Donald Trump continue to be the tough dog. In a video conference Monday morning with the governors of the 50 states, Trump, according to earwitnesses, dismissed the bulk of the participants as "wimps" and "idiots" who shied away from arresting protesters and cracking down relentlessly on looters.
Trump criticized "governors" acting in the rank of prime ministers/ministers for merely reacting instead of "controlling the streets" and using the power of the military in the process. "If they don't dominate the situation, you're wasting your time," Trump said, according to U.S. media, "they (the protesters – d. Red.) will overrun you and you will look like a bunch of morons."
Donald Trump calls for ten years in prison for protesters
For demonstrators arrested in protests nationwide that have been increasingly violent for days, Trump reportedly called for 10-year prison sentences; far from legal reality. J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic governor of Illinois, attacked Trump and sharply criticized his rhetoric. Trump returned the counter in the same vein. America is in a "war" against demonstrations organized by left-leaning groups such as Antifa, he said. States would have to respond appropriately harshly.
Since the fatal mistreatment of 46-year-old black man George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis a week ago, protests have swept the country. And no end in sight.
The numbers alone illustrate the scale of a crisis that historians say has not existed since the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King no longer existed in 1968: Roughly one-third of the 50 states have activated quasi-military National Guard with tens of thousands of troops to confront wave of violence and protests.
After death of George Floyd, demonstrations in nearly 100 cities
In Minnesota alone, where George Floyd met his death, were up to 10.000 forces deployed, said Gov. Tim Walz. There have been demonstrations in nearly 100 cities since then, with the majority of participants remaining peaceful. However, smaller, militant groups and individuals are causing a level of violence and destruction that far exceeds what previous police excesses against blacks – such as the 2014 Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri – have entailed.
Across the country, hundreds of stores, restaurants, cars and even police stations went up in flames. Public buildings destroyed. Looters roamed the streets. Gunshots echo through the night. There has been an as yet unknown number of deaths. US media reports that over 4500 people have been temporarily detained so far.
– Commenting on the U.S. president's crisis management:
Donald Trump has neither heart nor mind
Trump wants to declare Antifa a terrorist organization
Police officers attack Hollywood star with batons
In more than 40 cities, including metropolises such as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Portland/Oregon and Chicago, the responsible mayors were forced to impose curfews of the kind normally only imposed in the event of severe natural disasters or war. Only to find, as was the case in the nation's capital, Washington, late Sunday night, that many protesters did not comply.
"They're torturing and killing us anyway," 26-year-old black student Yakim Pierson told our newsroom outside Lafayette Square in Washington, joining a good 1,000 other protesters in the chorus familiar at least since Rodney King: "No justice, no peace". No peace without justice. "Since then," Pierson said, "basically not much has changed, if you look hard enough."
In March 1991, Los Angeles police officers had black truck driver Rodney King, 26, confronted and beaten up after a chase; allegedly because he resisted. At least 56 blows with batons broke the black man's leg and other bones. Proof of uninhibited police brutality was 81 seconds of video taken by an amateur.
Expectation that racism will be punished disappointed again and again
The general expectation that this racism in uniform belonged to be severely punished was bitterly disappointed a year later at trial. After the acquittal for the four cops, the most serious riots ignited, which were only contained after days by heavily armed National Guardsmen. In the end, over 60 people were dead and 2000 injured. Damage from looting and arson ran into billions of dollars.
Then-President George W. Bush appealed at the height of the crisis: "I urge all Americans to handle the situation with calm, tolerance and respect for the constitutional rights of each individual." Like the black leader of the time, Jesse Jackson, he was hardly heard.
Living conditions were too bad for many blacks: high unemployment, miserable schools and educational opportunities, high crime rates. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson warned that America could break into "two peoples" – "white, affluent suburbanites and black, poor urbanites, filled with distrust and fear of each other".
In Minneapolis, a tanker truck drives into a marching train
Pentecost 2020 – interspersed with dozens of instances of the worst police violence against African-Americans – feels like dejà vu for many. "Blacks are still economically and socially disadvantaged , but disproportionately affected by the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic," an African-American Georgetown University professor told our newspaper, "and whether Officer Derek Chauvin, who rammed his knee into George Floyd's neck for nine minutes, will end up with a truly substantial conviction is yet to be determined."
Pending a decision still months away, scenes remain remembered for the history books, horrific as well as heartening: In New York, a police SUV drives into a crowd at a barricade after protesters throw rocks and trash cans. In Chicago, a mob beats the crap out of a policeman, who is lucky to escape.
In Minneapolis, a tanker truck drives into a marching train; the driver is saved from the angry crowd by police at the last minute. In Michigan and elsewhere, police officers are taking off their helmets, hugging protesters, taking a knee with them as a sign of solidarity.
In this dicey situation, where every word, every gesture counts, Donald Trump, in the words of many commentators, excels above all as an "accelerant of fire". Since the protests began, the president has been using escalating rhetoric to call for their violent suppression, claiming that only radical left-wing circles are behind them. "When the looting begins, the shooting begins," he quoted Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, known in the 1960s for racist state power, on Friday, sparking horror even among close advisers.
As recently as Sunday, Trump called on the relevant governors and mayors to take a "tougher stance" against the protesters he has completely unjustly lumped together and to call out the National Guard. "The world is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe," Trump said in a helpless as well as illogical attempt to pin the plight on his Democratic challenger in November's election, Joe Biden.
The fact that Trump has so far not acknowledged with a syllable that a huge valve opened after Minneapolis and allowed decades of pent-up anger over never-ending police violence against minorities and cemented social disadvantage to flow off is seen not only by opposition Democrats and many media as evidence of selective perception and obtuseness – and as a guarantee of further aggravation.
Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland and thus in Trump's party camp, accused the president of irresponsible stoking: "He is not lowering the temperature. He continues to escalate the rhetoric." Black political celebrities like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms don't expect a learning curve from Trump: 'I wish he would just shut up'."