It’s the fourth day of unrest in the wake of Minneapolis police killing a black man named George Floyd.
Protests which began in Minneapolis spread to multiple cities over this past weekend. In the saddest of ironies, these protests — centered on the unlawful and excessive use of police force — have led to police employing even more unlawful and excessive force against protesters, most of whom have engaged in peaceful, constitutionally-protected activities. This has led to additional deaths, countless injuries, thousands of arrests, and the targeting of journalists by police and government authorities. As of today, that unrest, and the excessive force, continues.
On Friday night, President Trump took to a bunker in the White House even though there was no apparent threat to him whatsoever. Last night he had the lights of the White House extinguished while he remained cloistered inside, tweeting increasingly unhinged things like “LAW & ORDER!” Today, on a conference call with the nation’s governors, he ranted and raved about how they appeared “weak,” and urged them to use even more force against protesters.
After the call, Trump was reported to be considering deploying the United States military on American soil against American citizens. As this was happening, the Secretary of Defense spoke of the need to “dominate the battlespace” so we can “get back to the right normal.”
This evening, protesters once again gathered in Washington. One of the places they gathered: Lafayette Square, just to the north of the White House.
Given the park’s proximity to the White House it has been, for over a century, a prime location for protest and demonstration. Demonstrations the existence of which even their targets — usually presidents — have actually noted with grudging pride. In what other country are freedoms so manifest and so willingly given that the people are allowed to give voice to their anger and their grievances on the very front steps of the chief executive’s home? Protest and civil disobedience can sometimes be messy, but their very existence is proof of the strength of our nation. Their existence in a public park so close to the White House makes it a focal point for the expression of American ideals.
A few minutes ago, Trump began speaking at the White House, saying, he was ordering “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to enforce curfews. As he spoke, police fired flash-bang shells, tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters in Lafayette Square, forcing them from the park. Reporters and photographers were beaten with police shields and riot-glove encased fists. The protesters were described as “not 90% peaceful, but 100% peaceful” by a reporter on the scene.
Trump then walked across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal church, which was damaged by vandals last night. He stood in front of the church and held up a bible while posing for photos. He did not go inside to tour the damage. He did not make any further comments or make any other pretense for having gone there. Which is to say that the President of the United States ordered peaceful protestors to be fired upon and then violently descended upon by an armed force in service of a photo op.
As I sit here this evening, watching his horrifying spectacle over and over again and thinking about all that he has said and all that he has done in the past 72 hours, all I can conclude is that Donald Trump has declared war on the citizens of the United States. And, as of this evening, he has fired the first shots.
We are, in every way that matters, a country at war.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 1, 2020
Featured Photo: Rosa Pineda, Wikimedia Commons