Intense rallies for racial justice in US amid cracks in GOP

Jun 7, 2020

WASHINGTON: Tens of thousands of people marched through American cities on Saturday demonstrating before government edifices, city halls, and monuments seeking racial quality and justice in the aftermath of police brutality against blacks. The nationwide rallies, triggered by the police murder in broad daylight of George Lloyd nearly two weeks ago, have given fresh life to anti-Trumpers and is chipping away at the Republican Party, even as Democrats, buoyed by the protests, are rallying behind presumptive nominee Joe Biden.
Several leading Republicans – former President George Bush, his Secretary of State Colin Powell, and some GOP Senators among them – are now indicating that are ready to dump Trump, although he still commands loyalty of a hardcore white base in Middle America. Revealing that he is going to be voting for Biden in a TV interview on Sunday, Powell lit into Trump, saying the US President “lies and gets away with it because people have not held him accountable.” Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have also bailed out on Trump, enraging the President, who spends much time and energy on Twitter trashing critics.
Polls now show Biden leading Trump by a consistent 7+ point in a head-to-head match-up, although that is hardly germane considering the White House winner is decided by the electoral college, not popular vote (Hillary Clinton got +3 per cent more popular votes than Trump in 2016). But it does point to Trump losing some ground, with surveys showing Biden building a commanding 12 point lead in Michigan (which Trump won by only 10,000 votes in 2016) and a close race in Texas (Trump leading 43-42), which is considered a Republican redoubt.
The groundswell against the President was evident on Saturday as protestors streamed into Washington DC to demonstrate in front of the White House whose security perimeter has been extended to eat into several city blocks. Slogans and placards demanded racial justice and action against the police, including defunding them, even as the Pentagon scaled down military presence – reportedly against White House demands – withdrawing active duty soldiers. Even the National Guard was asked to put away weapons.
Free of the oppressive military presence, protesters (90 per cent masked and trying gamely to observe social distancing) milled around the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Freedom and Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House chanting slogans seeking an end to racial discrimination and racist white oppression. White people, many of whom brought their children with them, also came out in support of African-Americans, as did Latinos and Asians, lending a colorful festive spirit to an otherwise serious moment in the life of America.
One key demand of the protesters was to defund the police, a white-dominated force that in many places eats up a significant portion of the city budget (upwards of 25 per cent in some cases) even as they oppressively police black communities and incarcerate then on minor charges. Their generously budgeted militarization has become all the more stark at a time frontline respondents, including healthcare workers and delivery personnel, who mostly belong to the minority community, worked through the pandemic amid a shortage of personal protection equipment. The US has only four per cent of the global population, but accounts for 25 per cent of incarcerated people in the world.
But Trump, who has consistently wooed the men and women in uniform from the time he got elected, raged against the demand even as he trashed the protests from the confines of the fortified White House. “Sleepy Joe Biden and the Radical Left Democrats want to “DEFUND THE POLICE”. I want great and well paid LAW ENFORCEMENT. I want LAW & ORDER!” he tweeted the morning after the rally.
“Not only will Sleepy Joe Biden DEFUND THE POLICE, but he will DEFUND OUR MILITARY! He has no choice, the Dems are controlled by the Radical Left,” he said in another tweet, in defense of what is also universally recognized as an overmilitarized state. The U.S military budget of $ 732 billion for 2019 is more than that of the next ten countries (China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany U.K. Japan, South Korea, Brazil) combined, but Trump wants more, even as critics are pointing how ill-equipped the country was to fight the pandemic.

At the same time, Trump is also positioning himself as an anti-war President, suggesting that he wants a over-fed military and police that is loyal to him. “Colin Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden. Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction?” They didn’t, but off we went to WAR!” he tweeted soon after Powell announced his intention to support Biden.

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