We now know how Donald Trump views American citizens who protest police brutality.
They are enemy combatants.
As the president held another disturbing news conference Monday afternoon, in which he announced that he would be willing to deploy military units into U.S. cities to restore order, peaceful demonstrators were cleared from an area hundreds of yards away with tear gas and rubber bullets so that he could pose in front of an historic church with a Bible.
With these developments, coupled with Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s statements to governors earlier in the day in which he described American cities as “battle spaces” that needed to be “dominated,” Trump took one more significant step toward his dream of becoming an autocratic ruler.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city, a low-flying military helicopter was recorded hovering over peaceful protesters, a maneuver designed to encourage them to scatter. If Trump gets what he wants, scenes like these will be repeated nationwide.
On Day 7 of demonstrations to protest the ways in which law-enforcement use excessive force, a movement that started when white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed black resident George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, Trump essentially told the nation that his response will be even more force. Not surprisingly, he just doesn’t get it.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump announced on live TV.
Using the military against your own people is the hallmark of real-life totalitarian despots and fictional television programs and movies about dystopian societies. The fact that a sitting United States president is threatening such an action in cities across the country indicates the depths to which we have spiraled under Trump.
This is to say nothing of the more than 105,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 and the more than 40 million who have become unemployed, all in the last three months. The pandemic tearing through the country and the economic devastation that has followed have both suddenly become afterthoughts.
Instead of hearing the protesters and understanding their rage, it seems police in city after city have decided it’s better to just go ahead and prove the demonstrators’ point through their actions. In Louisville, a man was shot and killed Sunday night by police, all of whom turned off their body cameras. As a result, the chief of police has already been fired.
In other cities, cops are dressing like the soldiers that they aren’t, dusting off military-styled armored vehicles, and indiscriminately firing projectiles at demonstrators and journalists alike.
In Washington, Trump had the audacity to announce that he was, “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” at the very moment he was having peaceful protesters relocated by force so he could have a photo op.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who oversees the church that served as the backdrop for Trump’s stunt, responded by telling CNN: “I am outraged.”
How can you not be?