Editorial: Trump’s Law and Order is “Lawlessness and Disorder”

Donald Trump wants to be known as the “law and order president.” From his many abuses of office, to the coronavirus that has raged out of control in the U.S. under his watch, however, “lawlessness and disorder” are the terms that more accurately describe the country during Trump’s tenure in the White House. It doesn’t take a critical thinker to observe that by “law and order,” Trump is specifically referring to crushing the demonstrations against racism that are taking place in “Democrat-led” cities across the U.S., and using force to do so.

Following the May murder by police of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, demonstrators have gathered in cities across the U.S. to protest the police brutality and systemic racism that have led to numerous deaths of unarmed Black Americans. The demonstrations have mainly been nonviolent, but opportunists have shown up to some demonstrations, ready for a good fight or a good looting. Since the beginning of the demonstrations, Trump has conflated these destructive and violent individuals with the peaceful demonstrators associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Following Trump’s lead, his base opposes the demonstrations— even the peaceful ones (which are supported by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). Trump knows that his base isn’t likely to sort out facts, or care about them. It can’t be denied that they elected him, based at least in part, on his racist, xenophobic platform, which has emboldened them. How convenient it is to categorize the Black Lives Matter demonstrations as violent, chaotic, and dangerous, so that when Trump-supporting self-appointed vigilantes show up with weapons to “bring law and order,” Trump and his base approve.

Trump has used the phrase “law and order” so frequently and specifically in reference to his mission for how he wants to squelch Black Lives Matter protests in “Democrat-led cities,” it’s clear what he means when he utters the racism-laced phrase.

“It’s playing on fear of Black people, of Black leadership, of Democratic leadership. It’s embarrassing. It’s awful,” says Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas.

On the first night of last week’s Republican National Convention, Americans had just learned of the shooting of another unarmed Black Man, Jacob Blake, by police. Blake was shot seven times in the back as his three young children watched.

None of the speakers at the Republican National Convention, not even the president, directly mentioned Blake’s murder. None of them expressed outrage— not even to use their now familiar phrase about “bad apples,” in reference to violent racist police officers who they say are the exception to the rule. None of the speakers acknowledged America’s problem with systemic racism; in fact, when they mentioned it at all, it was to deny its existence.

Instead, they used the current situation to conjure the image of an America of lawlessness and violence, should Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, be elected.

“You won’t be safe in Biden’s America,” said Trump, reinforcing the message of earlier speakers, including Vice President Mike Pence.

Earlier in the month, Trump had said, “If you want a vision of your life under Biden presidency, think of the smoldering ruins in Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the bloodstained sidewalks of Chicago, and imagine the mayhem coming to your town and every single town in America.”

Kellyanne Conway confirmed what some Americans had already suspected: that the Republican Party, and Donald Trump’s hopes for re-election, are benefitting from the current violence, chaos, and unrest.

‘The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” said Conway on Fox News.

Does this make any kind of weird sense, even in Trumpworld, given that the “chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence

are all reigning now— under Donald Trump’s presidency?

Republicans cheer when Donald Trump says, “law and order,” but their interpretation of “law and order” allows AR-15-wielding private citizens to open fire against demonstrators. Last week, during a demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake was shot and killed, 17-year-old vigilante and Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse arrived in town from Antioch, Illinois, armed with a long gun, and shot two protesters, injuring a third.

The Trump administration has refused to condemn Rittenhouse’s actions, even when pressed, and so by default, demonstrates support. “He was trying to get away from them, I guess … and he fell, and then they very violently attacked him,” said Trump of Rittenhouse.

Several Fox News personalities, including Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson, have come out in defense of Rittenhouse. And again, as they are wont to do, Trump’s base has begun posting memes on social media in Rittenhouse’s defense. At least one crowd-funding site, Christian site GiveSendGo, has already started a fund in support of Rittenhouse (it should be noted that other sites, including GoFundMe, refused to host the fund drive).

Donald Trump is doing all he can to fan the flames of civil and racial unrest in the U.S. so that he can be re-elected to remedy the situation he has exacerbated, and in some cases, caused. Somehow, this makes sense to his base. He has portrayed the Black Lives Matter movement as an outlaw movement; instilled fear in his base that Black people will terrorize their neighborhoods; and cryptically given the OK for vigilantes, including white supremacists, to help bring “law and order.” The situation has been compared to that of a firefighter who starts a fire, pours gasoline on it, and then rushes in to heroically extinguish it. If we’re ever to put out the spreading fire of racism, pain, and outrage, however, Trump’s brand of “law and order” is the last thing we need.

Protests, violence play into Trump’s law-and-order campaign strategy | 
CBC News [2020-08-28] 

Pence pitches President Trump as “law and order” leader |  CBS News

Military Ranks Reject Trump’s Authoritarian Vision

There’s trouble in Bunkerville: It’s becoming evident that not every military person in Donald Trump’s sphere is willing to support Trump’s attempts at authoritarianism. Some Trump allies, as well as active-duty troops, are denouncing Trump’s attempts to use the military for partisan purposes, and are rejecting his use of military force against fellow Americans.

Since he became president, Trump has fantasized about big military parades and demonstrations in his honor, with tanks and weapons and armor. Despite never having served, Trump clearly imagines himself as a generalissimo.

On Monday, Trump’s dreams came true. In Lafayette Square, a public park in front of the White House, demonstrators were peacefully protesting police brutality and racism, and the death in police custody of George Floyd, a black man. About 30 minutes before curfew, MPs moved in on the crowd, forcefully and violently removing them from the area. They were making way for Trump, so that he could walk to St. John’s church and wield a Bible for a photo op. 

MPs who were policing the area deployed tear gas, shot rubber bullets, hurled flash bang grenades, and shoved demonstrators to clear the area as if the demonstrators were causing an insurrection instead of being within their constitutional rights to peacefully assemble and demonstrate.

Later, standing in front of St. John’s church, Trump gave some remarks in which he threatened to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy active-duty U.S. military to states if they refrained from calling out the National Guard to help manage crowds of demonstrators.

Since then, not only have a number of states said “No thanks” to using active-duty military troops against the people in their states, a number of military and former military officials have condemned Trump’s misuse of force and active duty military troops to “dominate” (Trump’s term) protesters.

Mark Esper Rejects Use of Insurrection Act

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper distanced himself from Trump’s call for military action and his threat to invoke the Insurrection Act, saying that using active-duty forces to quell unrest in the country is not currently necessary.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort, and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now,” Esper told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. “I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

In response to the violent military actions in Lafayette Park on Monday, though he had then referred to American cities as a “battle space” at the time, Esper said, “I was not aware of law enforcement’s plans for the park. I was not briefed on them, nor should I expect to be. But they had taken what action I assume they felt was necessary, given what they faced.”

Esper also said that he had not known in advance that he would be accompanying Trump to St. John’s church for Trump’s photo op.

James Mattis Denounces Abuse of Power

Just hours later, Trump’s former defense secretary, James Mattis, denounced Trump for “working to divide the country.” In an essay published in The Atlantic, Mattis accuses Trump of abuse of power, and of ordering U.S. military forces to violate Americans’ constitutional rights.

“We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square,” Mattis said. “We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote.

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

Mattis also wrote, “We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battle space’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate.’”

Senator Lisa Murkowski Struggles with Supporting Trump

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) praised Mattis’ remarks, and said that she is “struggling with her support for her fellow Republican president” in November, according to The Washington Post. 

“When I saw General Mattis’ comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” Murkowksi said.

General John Allen Accuses Trump of Projecting Abject Power

Four-star General John Allen, who led the fight against ISIS, accused Trump of pushing for the “end of American democracy.” 

In an op-ed in Foreign Policy, Allen wrote, “To even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy. The president’s speech was calculated to project his abject and arbitrary power, but he failed to project any of the higher emotions or leadership desperately needed in every quarter of this nation during this dire moment.”

U.S. Army Addresses Army Community

The U.S. Army itself has made clear that it does not align with Trump’s calls for the use of force. In a letter titled, “A Message to the Army Community about Civil Unrest,” which was distributed to “Soldiers, Civilians, Family members and Soldiers for Life,” Sgt. Major Michael A. Grinston, General James C. McConville, and Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy wrote, “Every Soldier and Department of the Army Civilian swears an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That includes the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. We will continue to support and defend those rights, and we will continue to protect Americans, whether from enemies of the United States overseas, from COVID-19 at home, or from violence in our communities that threatens to drown out the voices begging us to listen.”

Active-Duty Soldiers Refuse or Plan to Refuse to Deploy

An increasing number of active-duty National Guard and GIs are refusing to deploy to American cities that are protesting police-perpetrated killings. According to veterans’ and GI organizations, a number of GIs are saying that they don’t want to comply or participate in the repression of their fellow Americans. They also point out that they have not been properly trained in de-escalation tactics or riot response on domestic soil.

According to Candice Bernd, senior editor and staff reporter at Truthout, “..It’s not the legality of the president’s and governors’ deployment orders that is weighing on Guardspersons and active-duty soldiers; it’s the potential moral injury of brutalizing their own communities.”

An anonymous National Guardsman in a Pennsylvania infantry that has not yet been ordered to deploy, says he plans to refuse, if ordered, and is currently consulting an attorney about his options.

“I can’t do it. Even looking at my uniform is making me feel sick that I’m associated with this, especially after (the National Guard unit) shot that man who owned that barbecue shop (in Louisville, Kentucky),” he said.”

He also said that his fellow soldiers “really need to sit down and think about what they’re willing to do for an oath that means trampling on their neighbors.”

In response to these GIs’ concerns, the GI Rights Network is organizing emergency conscientious objector packets.

“Once they have (the conscientious objector packet) in, they should have the right to say that they can turn up at their mobilization point, but they cannot carry a weapon,” Says Siri Margerin, a counselor with the GI Rights Hotline.

It’s not clear whether GIs who choose to conscientiously object would still face disciplinary action. “We don’t know, because this hasn’t happened in a very long time, and it has never happened with a president like we have right now,” said  Margerin.

Our current president seeks (and believes he has) executive powers that extend far beyond what the U.S. Constitution allows. Donald J. Trump is exactly the type of president our founding fathers wanted to protect Americans from when they drafted the Constitution.

As Trump continues to distort his interpretation of U.S. laws (or ignore them altogether) to further his authoritarian aspirations, our only hope is that more and more Americans follow the military’s unprecedented actions and reject Trump’s lawlessness.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis Condemns Trump As Threat To Constitution | TODAY [2020-06-04]

Defense Secretary Mark Esper breaks with Trump over use of military force on protesters | CBS Evening News [2020-06-03]