Twitter has finally begun removing a smattering of Donald Trump tweets for fomenting violence or spreading lies. The company ought to remove a whole series of them for spreading pornography—authoritarian pornography.
President Bone Spurs woke up in his White House bunker Saturday and waxed orgasmic about the supposed performance of the Secret Service in protecting him from protesters Friday night.
“The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic,” he panted. The crowd had been peaceful, but “if they had [not] they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”
“At least.” He really enjoyed writing that. Also that a Secret Service official had told him, “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice.” (He had to get in the “sir.”) And he closed his stream with an invitation to a violent orgy: “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” (He deleted that one.)
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that Trump’s aides are “trying to get him to stop using violent rhetoric while maintaining a law and order posture.” Um, sure. So am I. And we’re having equal success.
A nation led by a man who is a coward, a bully, a liar, and a sadist is being policed by forces who admire him and what he stands for. The president doesn’t have the macho swagger of a Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer (now fired) who murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes, one hand casually in his pocket as if he were waiting for a latte. Trump’s more like the three cowards who helped get the cruelty started, then looked on while a fellow human being cried for his mother and then died.
The head of the Minneapolis police union, Sgt. Bob Kroll, is a prominent leader of “Cops for Trump” who has long been accused of racism and civil rights abuses by Minneapolis justice advocates. He joined a Trump rally last October and said this to the crowd: “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable. The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around, got rid of the [Attorney Generals Eric] Holder–Loretta Lynch regime and decided to start taking—letting the cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.”
But of course, it’s not just Minneapolis. All weekend long, we saw footage of police officers in cities from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York using brutal force against multiracial protesters, as well as journalists. In Columbus, cops pepper-sprayed Representative Joyce Beatty. In Seattle, a 9-year-old child.
Clearly, we’re being led by the worst imaginable man for the moment. Yes, as we say so often, Trump is a symptom of the metastatic racism that afflicts the country, not the cause. But as we’ve seen with other diseases, whether cancer or Covid-19, symptoms kill if not treated.
White racism is certainly the disease, worsened by the too-frequent silence and indifference of white moderates and liberals, as Martin Luther King Jr. warned us from that Birmingham jail almost 60 years ago. But we saw violence from other white people this weekend, many of them purporting to back the protesters. Not all white protesters. Very few. But along with reports of white cops escalating confrontation came complaints from black community members, from Minneapolis to Brooklyn, that it was often white people who turned protest from peaceful to violent. Early reports from Minnesota leaders that the worst offenders came from outside the area have so far not been substantiated; arrest records show the vast majority of those taken into custody were local. More information could change that story.
But it was certainly true in some places. A young white woman from Catskill, N.Y., was charged with throwing a Molotov cocktail at a car containing four police officers in Brooklyn Friday night. We saw a young black woman leader in Eugene tearfully begging mostly white protesters not to vandalize a store. In Pittsburgh a well-organized protest grew violent Saturday when elements unaffiliated with the organizers began to damage police cars and other property. In Baltimore you can see white protesters defy another young black woman, who told them that when they egg on the cops, they put black lives at risk. One retorted, “They’re killing you guys already.” Way to be an ally, dude.
On Saturday, Attorney General William Barr blamed elements of the left and antifa movements for the violence. Just after noon on Sunday, Trump tweeted, “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” a fascistic flourish. Some of the white protesters may be affiliated with antifa, others with the so-called black bloc, known for its willingness to escalate to violent tactics. Some are reportedly white nationalists and militia members, and a few could be police infiltrators. It will take a while to sort this out. We shouldn’t let Trump define this moment.
Of course, there are plenty of black protesters venting rage through property destruction in these cities; they’re not being duped by white agitators. But it’s tough to see young white adventurers defying black leadership. It’s essential for white people who care about racial and economic justice and who want to work on these issues, whether by protesting the murder of George Floyd or addressing grinding systemic racism, to seek out black groups and take their cues from black leaders. We have been incredibly lucky that so few people have died in this national spasm of justified anger, righteous protest, and not so easily defended violence. We’re lucky no employees were hurt when small businesses and community nonprofits were torched in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
It’s important to emphasize that most protest has been peaceful. On Saturday afternoon, tens of thousands of people turned out in Harlem, where I live, with no violence (though after midnight, long after the protests had dispersed, a crowd clashed with police in my neighborhood, and several people were arrested). In Flint, Mich., and Camden, N.J., historically black and ravaged by poverty, police officials joined the peaceful protests, as they did in Santa Cruz, Calif. In Denver thousands of protesters lay on their stomachs and chanted “I can’t breathe” for the nine minutes it took for Derek Chauvin to pin and suffocate George Floyd.
It’s a shame that these stories are being obscured by images of violence—but it’s almost as if police want it this way and that’s why they keep wrongly arresting people like CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and why they shot MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi with a rubber bullet in Minneapolis and pepper-sprayed local journalists in Louisville, Ky.; Detroit; and other cities. Trump and his backers in blue enjoy these orgies of violence. We should resist giving them what they want.