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Sam Hamad

Trump brutalizes black lives with racist 'law and order' war

Protesters in Brooklyn, New York are arrested during a Black Lives Matter demonstration [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 June, 2020

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Comment: America was built on racist institutions, and Trump is doing his best to ensure they remain that way, writes Sam Hamad.
The epidemic of racist police violence against black people in the US has a history far longer than Donald Trump's tenure as president. 

But the widespread protests against such violence, sparked by the outrageously cruel killing of 
George Floyd, choked to death under the knee of Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, have an undercurrent to them that is definitively linked to the president.

Trump and others in his regime have an extensive track record of sanctioning and empowering police violence.  

As peaceful protesters outside the White House were dispersed with tear gas yesterday, Trump was threatening to deploy "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers" across America, vowing to "defend our great country".  

This came after his typically coarse warning to governors that they must "dominate" the protesters, or, as he put it, "scum"; otherwise he would deploy the military. And this is one of the first key points in Trump's empowerment of police violence.

It was just a few months after his inauguration that Trump 
signed an Executive Order rescinding Obama's ban on police forces acquiring and using military equipment, including armoured vehicles and grenade launchers.  

This was of course in the aftermath of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri that followed the "wrongful killing" of the black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, and during which there was criticism of brutal police tactics against protestors.  

Trump and others in his regime have an extensive track record of sanctioning and empowering police violence

Trump has sought to reverse whatever small progress had been made, by ensuring police were back to their untethered, militarised worst.   

In this spirit, Trump also made an now infamous speech to assembled police officers in Long Island. Far from respecting "LAW AND ORDER", as he tweeted recently, Trump urged police to be more violent when dealing with suspects, saying "please don't be too nice... like when you guys put someone in the car and you're protecting their head [with your hand]?… I said, 'you can take the hand away, okay?'"

Since the murder of Floyd and the ensuing civil unrest, Trump's entire emphasis has not been on the injustice of the murder, which he passively refers to as a "tragedy", but rather on escalating police violence against protesters. 

It's no surprise then that the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters have faced increasingly violent assaults from the police, including clouds of pepper spray, the driving of vehicles into crowds and excessive use of batons. 

Trump has conducted much of his idiosyncratic presidency quite literally in the manner of a twitter troll, but he will surely be the first and last president to have a tweet flagged by the site for "violating twitter rules on glorifying violence"? 

Following another unlettered warning of military violence against "THUGS", Trump ended the tweet in question with his now infamous threat, that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

It's of little surprise that the Washington Post dug up an old Playboy 
interview with Trump in which he praised China's massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, singling out how the mass murder was a righteous show of "strength".  

This brings us to the main theme of Trumpism, and the subject of the violence of law enforcement and other state apparatuses. Given the intersection between racism and police violence, these policies have left black Americans in a more vulnerable position than any time since the pre-civil rights era.

This intersection isn't something obscure, but is plain to see in the Trump regime's actions.

Whether it's pardoning of sheriff Joe Arpaio from charges of racial profiling and the abuse of immigrants, or the pardoning of US soldiers convicted or under suspicion of war crimes, Trump's message is that under his presidency this kind of violence equals STRENGTH.  

Then there's the ICE raids on immigrants that have occurred under Trump, the aim of which Human Rights Watch say is to "foster cruelty and terror with the apparent aim to deter others from seeking refuge or a better life in the US." Any nod to civil or human rights is merely liberal weakness, crafted by a ruling elite, including the "fake news media", that allegedly work against Trump and the interests of his base.

True to form, Trump has actually blamed the protests on the "Lamestream Media", saying journalists are "truly bad people with a sick agenda."  

Given the breadth of support for Trump among the police, it's perhaps of little surprise that journalists with full press credentials have been targeted and attacked as their cameras roll. In fact, as reported by the BBC, the NGO Press Freedom Tracker has documented 100 "press freedom violations" during the protests, including 90 that constitute "attacks" - these include shooting rubber bullets, being charged by riot police, and indiscriminate use of pepper spray.  

Black lives, far from mattering in Trump's America, have never seemed so vulnerable and disposable

Though structural racism and state violence against black people is as old as America itself, it's clear that it has been boosted and cemented by Trump's ideology.

Take his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions - a man with a history of racism – who announced during his tenure in the Trump regime that federal investigations into and lawsuits regarding civil rights abuses by police departments would come to an end. Most ominously, this included investigations undertaken by the Obama admin into racist abuses meted out by the Ferguson police department. 

Similarly, Trump's second attorney general, William Barr has a long history of supporting police violence, including most recently dropping the federal case against the New York cop who in 2014 killed Eric Garner - another black American who was choked to death in custody, despite, with eerie similarity to George Floyd, saying "I can't breathe" 11 times to arresting officers before his death. 

Though it's important to understand that the current protests are aimed against a system that devalues black lives and violently renders them disposable, the sheer fury they embody might have much to do with the ideological nature of the sitting president.  

This is a president who not only sides with violent cops and has an ideological agenda that undermines basic civil rights, but who has grossly mismanaged the Covid-19 pandemic that has disproportionately ravaged black people and ethnic minorities in the US.  

Black lives, far from mattering in Trump's America, have never seemed so vulnerable and disposable.  The widespread belief is that Trump, this agent of racist chaos and white supremacist regression, represents the horrifying reality that the systems of structural racism that keep producing dead black people not only cannot be reformed, but are actually regressing and intensifying.

The black American commentator Charles M. Blow summed this feeling up with grim incisiveness: "Trump's America is not America: not today's or tomorrow's, but yesterday's... [it] is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.

And that is a vision of America that most of the people in this country cannot and will not abide."

 

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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