Protesters rally at the White House against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Washin…Read More
WASHINGTON: “NOVEMBER 3RD” US President Donald Trump tweeted in all caps on Sunday as America raged with fury over racism for the sixth successive day. Another tweet challenged a “heavily biased Democratic poll” while boasting that he is leading in all swing states and has the biggest “enthusiasm” lead ever. Yet another warned that “Sleepy Joe Biden’s people are so Radical Left that they are working to get the Anarchists out of jail, and probably more” and that there will “big tax increases for all” if they come to power.
Amid a furious social and racial conflagration that has spread to scores of American cities, the US President is making no secret of the fact that he is looking at the unfolding chaos through the prism of the November Presidential election. Denying there are any “white supremest” groups involved in the rioting as alleged by some liberal activists, Trump blamed ANTIFA, an autonomous anti-fascist anti-capitalist left wing movement for the violence, associating Democrats with it. He also said he is designating ANTIFA as a terrorist organization, although the US has no domestic terrorism law to designate something that has no organizational structure and no office bearers.
The President’s anger at the protests peaked on Sunday night as hundreds of people who have been streaming towards the White House over the past few days turned violent over the weekend, burning signposts, traffic barricades, and anything combustible, even as many activists demonstrated peacefully seeking racial and social justice. At one point on Saturday, the Secret Service got so unnerved by the sight that they reportedly rushed Trump to an underground bunker last used during 9/11 for safety, generating social media ridicule for a President who presents himself an aggressive tough guy rather than as compassionate human being.
Soon after the news surfaced, Trump tweeted “FAKE NEWS!” but several news outlets confirmed it even as trolls mocked Trump with hashtags such as “BunkerPresident” and “BunkerDon” trending on social media. On Sunday night, security personnel used pepper spray and burst tear gas to clear protestors under the cover of darkness, after the White House switched off the lights that typically illuminate the presidential mansion and the grounds surrounding it till 11 p.m.
Scenes or violence and arson were everywhere, with ugly graffiti sprayed on government buildings and cherished monuments, including one near Lincoln Memorial that read “YALL NOT TIRED YET?” and some expletive laden messages for the President. Luxury goods stores such as Gucci and Chanel were looted in New York City, and there were scenes of arson and vandalizing of stores across the country, causing Target to shut down scores of its outlets across the country.
The random acts of violence and looting masked a more complicated picture of thousands of people emerging from their home to protest peacefully, and in many cases trying to contain the hotheads in the face of a heavily-armed, militarized police. In fact, even the police reaction was not always heavy-handed: in some instances, cops joined peaceful demonstrators, kneeling down with them in solidarity.
But in other incidents, cops unleashed brute force, using baton charges, pepper spray, and violence on even peaceful demonstrators and journalists. One chilling, widely circulated video showed a policeman with his knee on the neck of a protestor, exactly in the same manner that led to the killing of George Lloyd, before his fellow cop managed to pushed the knee off the victim’s neck. It was not clear where and when the video was shot. In another instance, cops in Atlanta pulled out a black couple from a cop and tasered them, leading to the mayor suspending two policemen. In a third, cops handcuffed a black man who was apparently an undercover agent.
Through all the seething disquiet, there was no effort on part of President Trump to calm the situation or offer words of solace and comfort to a restive people, other than tweeting “LAW&ORDER” in all caps. Instead, as one editorial noted, he kept “tweeting fuel on the fire,” even as political operatives calculated the electoral outcome of the unrest by consolidating white votes behind him.
Some pundits harked back to 1968 when Richard Nixon was swept into office by tapping into what some termed “white anxiety,” following civil unrest in the months preceding.