Protestors Tear Gassed to Clear Way for Trump Photo Op

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The President of the United States’ outrageous response to protests against police violence has finally become sufficiently extreme to get top billing on the front pages of our top newspapers.

As can be seen from the headlines, the outrages are multiple and overlapping. In the post, I’ll concentrate on the most concrete but arguably the least dangerous: federal police and military police used teargas on peaceful protestors to clear the way for the President to stage a photo op outside a church at which he does not worship. This outrageous and indefensible act merited sidebar coverage.

WaPo:

President Trump began mulling a visit to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday morning, after spending the night devouring cable news coverage of protests across the country, including in front of the White House.

The historic church had been damaged by fire, and Trump was eager to show that the nation’s capital — and especially his own downtown swath of it — was under control.

There was just one problem: the throngs of protesters, who on Monday had again assembled peacefully in Lafayette Square across from the White House to protest the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

And so — shortly before the president addressed the nation from the Rose Garden at 6:43 p.m. Monday and roughly a half-hour before the District’s 7 p.m. curfew went into effect — authorities fired flash-bang shells, gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, clearing a path for Trump to visit the church immediately after his remarks.

The split screen as Trump began speaking was dark and foreboding — an angry leader proclaiming himself “an ally of all peaceful protesters” alongside smoke-filled mayhem and pandemonium as protesters raced for safety.

The evening’s events were the product of a president who favors brute strength and fears looking weak, yet finds himself reeling from a duo of crises — a deadly pandemic that has left more than 100,000 Americans dead and racial unrest that has led to protests and riots across the nation.

[…]

When Trump had returned safely to the White House less than an hour later, the verdict seemed clear: The president had staged an elaborate photo op, using a Bible awkwardly held aloft as a prop and a historic church that has long welcomed presidents and their families as a backdrop.

[…]

In the process, protesters had been tear gassed and attacked, and Trump had taken a raging conflagration and doused it with accelerant.:

The use of the passive voice is present in the three reports I’ve read on the incident (see NPR and NYT for the others). There’s no proof Trump himself gave the order. But we know the whole scheme was concocted yesterday morning and that “U.S. Secret Service uniformed officers, military police and other law enforcement” were the ones who ordered the protesters to disperse and fired tear gas on them when they didn’t do so.

Even loyalists are outraged:

“We long ago lost sight of normal, but this was a singularly immoral act,” said Brendan Buck, a longtime former Hill aide who is now a Republican operative. “The president used force against American citizens, not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities. We will all move on to the next outrage, but this was a true abuse of power and should not be forgotten.”

Alas, not all of them are. Indeed, they point to this being on-brand:

Jason Miller, a former senior adviser on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, defended the president’s decision. He said Trump was elected in part on law-and-order themes, which he needs to continue to hammer, while simultaneously talking to black supporters about some of his initiatives, such as criminal justice reform.

“You’re going to have to go and knock some of the bad guys around a little bit,” Miller said. “Once they get tear gassed or pepper sprayed, they don’t want it to happen again.”

He added that Trump had been reminded by allies that he was elected as a “get-things-done president.”

“He’s not the hand-holder or consoler in chief,” Miller said. “He was elected to take bold dramatic action and that’s what he did.”

Trump’s staff weren’t concerned about the wisdom, morality, or legality of the decision, merely the optics.

Inside the West Wing, aides were torn on the proposed spectacle. One official argued it was necessary, allowing Trump to demonstrate that he was not hunkered down and was out of the White House, as well as standing with evangelical voters by visiting the church. But two others worried it could backfire.

“It was just to win the news cycle,” one Trump adviser said. “I’m not sure that things are any better for us tomorrow.”

The description of how it went down is chilling:

The action began less than an hour before the District’s curfew, and in the moments before Trump was set to speak. Just after 6 p.m., hundreds of protesters were gathered on H Street NW, facing Lafayette Square. Though members of the National Guard — wielding shields that said “Military Police” — were lined up behind barricades, along with Secret Service and other law enforcement officers, the protesters remained peaceful. Several played music, and one painted on an easel.

But shortly thereafter, Attorney General William P. Barr visited the scene, and, about 6:30 p.m., the National Guard moved just yards from the protesters, prompting some screams. Some protesters threw water bottles, but many simply stood with their arms raised.

Then, the chaos began.

Members of the National Guard knelt briefly to put on gas masks, before suddenly charging eastward down H street, pushing protesters down toward 17th Street. Authorities shoved protesters down with their shields, fired rubber bullets directly at them, released tear gas and set off flash-bang shells in the middle of the crowd.

Protesters began running, many still with their hands up, shouting, “Don’t shoot.” Others were vomiting, coughing and crying.

As Trump began to speak, some protesters took a knee several blocks from the White House, again yelling, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” But they were never able to stay kneeling for more than a couple of minutes, because authorities kept pushing them forward, as a thick, yellow cloud of smoke hung over the crowd.

About midway through his remarks, and roughly 10 minutes before the city’s curfew was set to go into effect, the president offered a stark warning: “Our 7 o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced. Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Alas, this was not the most outrageous action taken by the President that evening. I’ll return to that later in the day.

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FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. SKI says:

    Glad NYT changed its headline. Their initial one was appalling.

    3
  2. SKI says:

    Additional information I hadn’t seen last night: They drove off priests, clergy and medics from the Church patio with tear gas and batons.
    Ahead of Trump Bible photo op, police forcibly expel priest from St. John’s church near White House

    Early Monday evening (June 1), President Trump stood before the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Washington, DC, and held aloft a Bible for cameras.

    The photo opportunity had an eerie quality: Trump said relatively little, positioned stoically in front of the boarded-up church, which had been damaged the day before in a fire during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

    The church appeared to be completely abandoned.

    It was, in fact, abandoned, but not by choice: less than an hour before Trump’s arrival, armored police used tear gas to clear hundreds of peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square park, which is across the street from the church.

    Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.

    Early Monday evening (June 1), President Trump stood before the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Washington, DC, and held aloft a Bible for cameras.

    The photo opportunity had an eerie quality: Trump said relatively little, positioned stoically in front of the boarded-up church, which had been damaged the day before in a fire during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

    The church appeared to be completely abandoned.

    It was, in fact, abandoned, but not by choice: less than an hour before Trump’s arrival, armored police used tear gas to clear hundreds of peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square park, which is across the street from the church.

    Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.

    The Rev. Glenna J. Huber, the rector of the Church of the Epiphany who was at St. John’s but left as the National Guard arrived, said she watched as police rushed into the area she had just fled. Concerned, the priest sent a frantic email to clergy at the church urging them to be careful.

    Back at St. John’s, Gerbasi said she was dressed in clerical garb and standing on church grounds as police approached.

    “I’m there in my little pink sweater in my collar, my gray hair up in a ponytail, my reading glasses on, and my seminarian who was with me — she got tear gas in her eyes,” she said.

    Gerbasi said as she and the seminarian watched, police began to expel people from the church patio.

    “The police in their riot gear with their black shields and the whole bit start pushing on to the patio of St. John’s Lafayette Square,” she said, adding that people around her began crying out in pain, claiming to be shot with non-lethal projectiles.

    Gerbasi and others eventually fled the scene, leaving emergency medical supplies behind. By the time she reached K street several blocks away and checked her phone, Trump was already in front of the church holding a Bible.

    “That’s what it was for: to clear that patio so that man could stand in front of that building with a Bible,” said Gerbasi.

    The priest above, Gina Gerbasi posted her account on Facebook:

    Around 6:15 or 6:30, the police started really pushing protestors off of H Street (the street between the church and Lafayette Park, and ultimately, the White House. They started using tear gas and folks were running at us for eyewashes or water or wet paper towels. At this point, Julia, one of our seminarians for next year (who is a trauma nurse) and I looked at each other in disbelief. I was coughing, her eyes were watering, and we were trying to help people as the police – in full riot gear – drove people toward us. Julia and her classmates left and I stayed with the BLM folks trying to help people. Suddenly, around 6:30, there was more tear gas, more concussion grenades, and I think I saw someone hit by a rubber bullet – he was grasping his stomach and there was a mark on his shirt. The police in their riot gear were literally walking onto the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with these metal shields, pushing people off the patio and driving them back. People were running at us as the police advanced toward us from the other side of the patio. We had to try to pick up what we could. The BLM medic folks were obviously well practiced. They picked up boxes and ran. I was so stunned I only got a few water bottles and my spray bottle of eyewash. We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John’s, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear. We were pushed back 20 feet, and then eventually – with SO MANY concussion grenades – back to K street. By the time I got back to my car, around 7, I was getting texts from people saying that Trump was outside of St. John’s, Lafayette Square. I literally COULD NOT believe it. WE WERE DRIVEN OFF OF THE PATIO AT ST. JOHN’S – a place of peace and respite and medical care throughout the day – SO THAT MAN COULD HAVE A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH!!! PEOPLE WERE HURT SO THAT HE COULD POSE IN FRONT OF THE CHURCH WITH A BIBLE! HE WOULD HAVE HAD TO STEP OVER THE MEDICAL SUPPLIES WE LEFT BEHIND BECAUSE WE WERE BEING TEAR GASSED!!!!

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  3. Pete S says:

    I saw a suggestion from Jonathon Bernstein that if anything makes the tear gassing worse. He reverses the decision making – the protesters were not cleared to allow Trump to walk to the church. Rather, Trump decided to go to the church as a pretext to tear gas the protesters while he was speaking on TV. If anything this is even worse.

    It has become apparent over the last couple of days that Tom Nichol’s article in the Atlantic pointing out (correctly) that Trump is not very manly has really gotten under his skin, especially followed up with the stories that he chose to hide in the bunker Friday night. I think we can expect to see way too many more instances of Trump demonstrating his “courage” by ordering heavily armed federal forces to bully unarmed peaceful protesters.

    15
  4. MarkedMan says:

    [Moved from open thread]

    Last night Donald Trump sent out militarized secret service to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protestors in front of a church, violently clearing them off so he could stalk across, hold up a bible and call for violence. This morning I have nothing but contempt for the 90% of white evangelicals who support this deranged President. They measure their worth by how often they shout Jesus, but their hearts are dead set against everything he stood for. If he was alive today they would cheer as Trumps goons gassed and beat him.

    28
  5. Jen says:

    He is a dreadful person and morally reprehensible, and quite possibly has the worst leadership skills I’ve ever encountered.

    There are 154 days until Election day. It cannot get here soon enough. I am so, so, so very done with this. He is a coward with a ridiculously inflated view of himself. The Bishop of St. Johns was pretty much shaking in outrage over this stupid, vain stunt. She has every reason to be furious.

    10
  6. Teve says:

    @Jen: here’s how Gateway Pundit covered that:

    Unhinged Episcopal Bishop Calls in to CNN to Trash President Trump for Holding Bible without Her Permission — SAYS NOTHING ABOUT CRIMINALS WHO TORCHED CHURCH

    Trumpers are garbage.

    20
  7. KM says:

    Of course he’s attacking innocent people just to look like a big man. People who are dismissing these protests because they think police violence only happens to criminals who “deserve” it or “those people” got to see what little protection they truly have last night. He’ll order you to be attacked just so he can strut out in front of the camera. He’ll sic police, the National Guard and the military on you for nothing more then a whim – so he can hold a Bible upside down as a prop so we’ll stop calling him #BunkerBitch and #CowardinChief.

    Trump is the tyrant the right’s been screaming about for years, the one who will abuse federal power to harm Americans. This is why cities are on fire every night this week – excessive force by the government that kills and ruins lives. So far, it’s been directed mostly at minorities for decades but you’d need to be an absolute fool to not see that Trump and his ilk’s got zero qualms about cracking open dissenter skulls. This is how truly bad things start – we cannot this man to destroy our democracy so he can have a worthless photo-op.

    11
  8. Mikey says:

    “You’re going to have to go and knock some of the bad guys around a little bit,” Miller said. “Once they get tear gassed or pepper sprayed, they don’t want it to happen again.”

    Fuck this fascist asshole. These weren’t “the bad guys,” they were Americans exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Nobody in that crowd was doing anything disruptive. But, just like the Constitution today’s Republicans laughably and falsely claim to support, they were in Trump’s way.

    16
  9. Teve says:

    The Secret Service, partly due to fawning movie portrayals, actually had a decent reputation. Was it worth it, Secret Service?

    Everyone who supports Trump winds up humiliated in the end.

    19
  10. mattbernius says:

    I, for one, am absolutely deafened by the sounds of outrage and protest coming from Elected Republicans and party elders.

    I am equally inspired by the anonymous WH staffers who talk about how disgusted they were at this and then slink to their jobs this morning helping to plan the next gassing, or caging of children, or trade war, or screw up of managing Covid-19 relief.

    34
  11. Scott says:

    Trump Finally Gets the War He Wanted

    President Donald Trump finally got the war he wanted. It isn’t in Afghanistan, or Iraq, Syria, or North Korea. It’s right here in Washington, D.C., where on Monday the president claimed moral and Constitutional authority and ordered federal law enforcement and the U.S. military to turn against Americans who opposed him.

    For three years, half a dozen defense secretaries and Joint Chiefs chairmen tried, each in his own way, to keep the military out of Trump’s politics while complying dutifully with the commander in chief. But on Monday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper walked right into it.

    More importantly, Milley and Esper participated in it. Both were photographed walking behind the president through the park, drawing outrage from critics including former CIA Director Mike Hayden, a retired general; and Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who called Milley’s decision to appear in battle dress “shameful” and “way over the line.”

    “Gen. Milley will have to answer to history for what he has done tonight, marching in the President’s photo op war on peaceful protesters,” wrote Susan Glasser, New Yorker staff writer and former editor of Politico and Foreign Policy

    Trump stokes division for a living. It has worked for him so far and could work again come November’s presidential election. He also loves a fight. And anyone who stands against him is his enemy. The one sector of the nation supposedly immune from Trump was the U.S. military. Generals must follow lawful orders, such as helping to enforce curfews and preventing lawful protest from turning violent. If Trump can enlist — or even appear to enlist — the military in his scorched-earth campaign against his enemies, then he threatens to undercut more than the military’s reputation. With his conspiracy-theory claims that the election is already rigged against him, and Democrats worried he’ll try to steal it from them, Trump threatens to undermine American democracy.

    11
  12. Scott F. says:

    I keep thinking the latest “singularly immoral act” will be enough to drive the “decent” people who still support this cretin back into the light. Could gassing priests to blaspheme a bible in front of a church be that act?

    Nah, of course not.

    16
  13. KM says:

    Trump’s also guaranteed the protests will go on for another few days. People who weren’t really feeling a protest about the police killing yet another Black man will show up for a protest about President misuse of power, especially if they feel they’re on the target list.

    Idiot’s only gone and made things worse, like he does anything. I can only imagine how stressful it must be to work in the WH right now but hey, that’s what happens when you sell your soul. You end up outside the bunker when justice comes a-knockin’. It’s going to be lights out again tonight, cowering in fear instead of standing up like adults and doing your damn jobs. Take away the coward’s phone, sit him down with videos of actual inspirational speeches and explain to him what’s going to happen if he keeps doing this. Maybe a history lesson about how it traditionally doesn’t end well or perhaps reminding him that his legal troubles post-Presidency will get a lot worse if he keeps this crap up.

    4
  14. And the WH made a propaganda video out of it: click.

    3
  15. CSK says:

    Well, over at Lucianne.com the consensus is that this disgusting lump of animated lard is “our good president”…”a brave Christian man.”

    2
  16. KM says:

    @Scott F.:
    Are you kidding? It was the Episcopalians that got attacked. Evangelicals consider them barely a step above Catholics – nominally “Christian” as they define it but only one of them when they need the numbers. Now if Trump had gassed members of a megachurch so he could go preen in front of their fabulously extravagant architecture and bling, you’d hear screaming till Judgement Day. Since it was only St. John’s (with a female Bishop to boot!!), it gets a Frowny Face and Finger Wag of Outrage at best.

    Until I see a massive Evangelical presence out there tonight in solidarity with their Episcopalian brethren, it’s all just hot air. Faustian bargains aren’t so easily undone – they sold their souls to the MAGA devil before they even had a marketable name for it. CINOs and Paulians aren’t going to care until the tank’s in front of *their* church and they happen to be inside. Until then, the deal holds since they’re still getting what they want.

    16
  17. Kathy says:

    It’s times like these when you wonder whether Lincoln blew it keeping the Union together.

    14
  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: I understand your feelings.

    However, I’ve lived in the South. My daughter lives in Texas now. I love so many of the people of the South I’ve met, and I want to represent for them. A significant number of them are not Trumpers at all, and they don’t fly the Confederate flag or any such.

    In the meantime, I know of ardent Trumpers from very northern states. The problem is a mindset, not a geography.

    My uncles used to haul big logs of driftwood off the beach and let them sit out and dry for a while, then split them and cut them into firewood. Splitting a log like that takes multiple wedges and patience. One blow won’t do it. It often won’t look like you’ve made any progress at all. You have to just keep hammering at it and one day the thing just falls apart.

    9
  19. Joe says:

    This only could have been improved if Trump had driven a golf cart across the square. I am actually mildly surprised he could walk that far.

    16
  20. Kit says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    My uncles used to haul big logs of driftwood off the beach and let them sit out and dry for a while, then split them and cut them into firewood. Splitting a log like that takes multiple wedges and patience. One blow won’t do it. It often won’t look like you’ve made any progress at all. You have to just keep hammering at it and one day the thing just falls apart.

    I’ve seen that log and he is us.

    5
  21. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kit: You realize that I was thinking that the log was Trumpism, right? That I expect it to fall apart at some point? I mean, Trump might fall apart at some point.

  22. @Kathy: Trump would not be president save for a handful of voters in those well known southern states of MI, PA, and WI

    9
  23. Teve says:

    @HoarseWhisperer

    I hate this piece of shit with the fire of a thousand suns.

    5
  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Trump would not be president save for a handful of voters in those well known southern states of MI, PA, and WI

    … and huge majorities in virtually all of the former slave states.

    I agree with the argument that in any given large group of people there are good and bad actors and the balance for the group often hangs on a narrow margin. But I don’t see anyway around acknowledging that the Trump states have a long, long history of raising up leaders whose main appeal is to keep the poors in their place.

    13
  25. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    huge majorities in virtually all of the former slave states.

    We need to give up on this “former slave state” bullshit once and for all if you care about racism in America “progressives.” Because making the South the bad guy in this when we’re seeing how deep racism is encoded into the “progressive north” no longer works. Where ever you live, racism is a problem.

    And if that makes you uncomfortable… well eff your white feel feels and do something about it because I can guarantee you that where ever you live has a “long, long history of raising up leaders whose main appeal is to keep the poors in their place.”

    19
  26. steve says:

    Steve- We do call the middle part of our state (PA) Pennsyltucky just so you know.

    Steve

    7
  27. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And the WH made a propaganda video

    Little noticed in the credits:
    Innocent American’s were injured in the making of this film.

    5
  28. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius: I was a kid on the South Side of Chicago when the last all white high school was being integrated and the streets were lined with white housewives in robes screaming “n*gger” at the top of their lungs at the school busses. I worked with a Neo-Nazi who patrolled the parks to chase down and beat any black people who entered, and I had friends whose fathers were Chicago cops and made no secret that they were cheering them on. I could go on and on, but the point is that I have no illusions about racism being everywhere.

    But the Deep South has a cultural problem that has not gone away in literally centuries. Over and over again they put keeping the poors down (black and white) over improving the lot of their citizens. There is a reason why the Deep South occupies the lowest 10 rungs on virtually every metric be it education, health, advancement.

    It’s tragic for the Deep South, but the modern Republican Party has become the party of the Deep South, embracing that toxic culture and bringing it to a national level.

    17
  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Joe:

    This only could have been improved if Trump had driven a golf cart across the square.

    I’m sure his bone spurs were killing him.

    2
  30. Kit says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    You realize that I was thinking that the log was Trumpism, right?

    Yes. Nice image. But doesn’t that image better fit the country as a whole, and how certain forces have been working at it for a good twenty years now? And it certainly feels like we are starting to split.

    1
  31. Scott says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Splitting a log like that takes multiple wedges and patience. One blow won’t do it. It often won’t look like you’ve made any progress at all. You have to just keep hammering at it and one day the thing just falls apart.

    “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” — Jacob Riis

    Gregg Popovich’s favorite quote. My second Popovich reference of the day.

    3
  32. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It’s tragic for the Deep South, but the modern Republican Party has become the party of the Deep South, embracing that toxic culture and bringing it to a national level.

    Yeah, and Minnesota’s DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR, MINNESPOLIS’s DEMOCRAT MAYOR, HENNIPEN COUNTRY DEMOCRAT PROSECUTOR are all doing a bang-up job with no racism and stopping police violence.

    Hey, remind me when was the last time Chicago had a Republican mayor?

    But hell yeah, blame the South as you help excuse Racism in the North.

    This isn’t a Trump problem. This is a white people problem. That means it’s a you and me problem.

    Or hey, share the equitable land that you live in right now. I have a ton of black friends who are looking for that magic place at the moment.

    4
  33. Jay L Gischer says:

    @MarkedMan: Given that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, I am really not feeling like this is a problem that has a lot to do with “the South”.

    I feel like there’s not much I can say that black people haven’t said better. Here’s Dennis Sanders, a gay pastor from, ahem, Minneapolis. I’ve been reading Dennis for a few years now. He’s worth it.

    https://ordinary-times.com/2020/06/02/trouble-in-lake-wobegon/

    3
  34. mattbernius says:

    To be clear, I’m voting for Biden. I support Democrats as the better of the two parties.

    But “blame the south” is bullshit for people who want to avoid their role in propping up our current culture of White Supremacy.

    7
  35. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    As shocking as the events of yesterday were, everyone should remember this about Trump; there is no bottom — there is only worse to come.

    9
  36. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    I’m surprised he didn’t don a red MAGA baseball cap.

    3
  37. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @mattbernius:
    You are correct.
    Racism, a symptom of ignorance, is everywhere.
    And Trump has given it’s expression free reign.

    2
  38. @MarkedMan:

    But I don’t see anyway around acknowledging that the Trump states have a long, long history of raising up leaders whose main appeal is to keep the poors in their place.

    Sure, but, I have to agree with @mattbernius:

    We need to give up on this “former slave state” bullshit once and for all if you care about racism in America “progressives.” Because making the South the bad guy in this when we’re seeing how deep racism is encoded into the “progressive north” no longer works. Where ever you live, racism is a problem.

    After all, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.

    4
  39. mattbernius says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Racism, a symptom of ignorance, is everywhere.
    And Trump has given it’s expression free reign.

    Because, apparently, it was so much better when it was polite and hidden. That way all us Good progressive White Folks in the North could easily wave away our complicity in maintaining these systems of oppression and tut tut at the South.

    I keep going back to “Letter From Birmingham Jail” and having to grapple with the fact that for most of my life I (and I suspect most of my good liberal “blame the South” brethren who comment here) have been the “White Moderates” that Dr King was writing about.

    4
  40. Scott F. says:

    @KM:

    Now if Trump had gassed members of a megachurch so he could go preen in front of their fabulously extravagant architecture and bling, you’d hear screaming till Judgement Day.

    Nope, the Evangelicals would still find a way forgive Trump. They’d somehow make that it clear the megachurch folks were Evangelicals in Name Only because they didn’t get out of Dear Leader’s way fast enough.

    5
  41. Pete S says:

    @steve:

    The only time I have ever had someone actually approach me to tell me how great Trump is, and ask how much I love him, was at a gas station an hour south of Erie PA. I pointed to my Ontario license plates and said something about he’s not my problem and got out of there.

    3
  42. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius: I specifically used Chicago as an example. Daley Sr. was as bad as they come for violent police response. And I’m not talking about racism here, except as a manifestation of the bigger cultural issue: a focus on enforcing a class system where the laws are used to protect the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes, coupled with a real desire to keep the lower classes down.

    And as I also said, the dividing line in any large group between good action and bad actions boils down to a few percent of people either way. And yes, every state and city has had eras of falling into worse and worse conditions, some more than others. And every such group should challenge themselves as to the cultural norms that contribute to that negative feedback and, for those who have also had more positive times, examine the norms that brought them out of the downward spiral.

  43. CSK says:

    @Scott F.:
    Two things I guarantee:
    1.) Any hardcore member of Cult45 will always forgive/rationalize anything Trump does, or simply ignore anything that can’t be forgiven or rationalized.

    2.) Cultists will turn in a rage on anyway who voices the slightest criticism of their god.

    7
  44. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    . And I’m not talking about racism here, except as a manifestation of the bigger cultural issue: a focus on enforcing a class system where the laws are used to protect the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes, coupled with a real desire to keep the lower classes down.

    And there is the brilliant White Moderate move, after blaming the Racist south for everything, to quickly turn the conversation away from race so they can avoid being complicit in the system.

    1
  45. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius:

    Given that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, I am really not feeling like this is a problem that has a lot to do with “the South”.

    I’ll try one more time: the reason I’m calling out Southern White Culture is because, starting in 1964, one of our major parties, the Republicans, have embraced the worst parts of that culture and brought it to the entire nation.

    Since the rise of labor unions at the turn of the last century the US saw the common man advance relative to the wealthy. We saw unprecedented improvements in nutrition and education, in the quality of life for the elderly and the mentally challenged. We saw huge improvements in environmental quality and acceptance and advancement of minorities. Working people could demand to be treated fairly on the job and off. But the Deep South lagged in all of these areas throughout the whole century. That’s been a tragedy for the South, but by embracing the culture that led to this backwardness, the Republicans have made it the National Culture. And since the 70’s and 80’s we, as a nation, have seen little improvements and outright regression on most of these issues.

    2
  46. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Jesus wept.

    3
  47. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius: I didn’t turn away from anything here. I specifically led with Chicago as the main example in my post. I said

    I have no illusions about racism being everywhere

    . And specifically called out the toxic culture as it related to class, not race and specifically pointed out that I wasn’t talking about race:

    But the Deep South has a cultural problem that has not gone away in literally centuries. Over and over again they put keeping the poors down (black and white) over improving the lot of their citizens.

    I get that my original post was inflammatory when I referred to the “former slave states”. But that’s part of my point, that this toxic culture of class has gone on for literally centuries, with no letup. When the entire world was turning away from slavery, the Deep South was doubling down.

    And I can’t say any more clearly or more often that I don’t think this toxic culture is unique to the South, that it can happen to any large group once that small difference in percentage tilts to those who embrace resentment over those who embrace advancement.

    What happened in 1964 was that the national Republican Party made a decision. They could have embraced the Southerners fighting for advancement or justice. They could have remained neutral. But instead they went to the most toxic of the Southern leaders and said “we have your back”. That decision was not good for the South and it has not been good for the country as a whole.

    3
  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @KM: In the footage that I saw from NBC news, he was holding the Bible right side up, but I would love to see a picture with him holding it upside down if there is one.

    ETA: I do wonder where he got it though, There aren’t very many hard cover Bibles with marker ribbons bound into them.

  49. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius:

    Yeah, and Minnesota’s DEMOCRAT GOVERNOR, MINNESPOLIS’s DEMOCRAT MAYOR, HENNIPEN COUNTRY DEMOCRAT PROSECUTOR are all doing a bang-up job with no racism and stopping police violence.

    Seattle’s Mayor is doing a great job of supporting police violence. And we really don’t have that many black folks here. Our police are happy to cover their badge numbers, and then go beat the shit out of white people.

    Police violence and racism are overlapping problems, but identifiably different problems. There’s a common culture behind it, and the mindset that compromise is weakness that has been pushed by the Republicans since they embraced Palin has made it much worse and much more dangerous.

    Police are very Republican, by and large. And I don’t know what is up with mayors that are siding with police rather than their citizens. (Seattle’s Mayor is definitely doing so)

    The South is a separate problem. Reconstruction failed and the revisionists sold a story of the lost cause that resonated with idiots and racists across the country, to the point where those living in rural communities where their way of life is collapsing identify with the South having lost their way of life (which involved Slaves and Jim Crow, to be sure, but those aren’t the things people gravitate towards first…)

    3
  50. Not the IT Dept. says:

    The bible he used at his inauguration was his mother’s; it’s possible that the one he had yesterday was the same one.

    So now they’re tear gassing priests. By the way, my father-in-law informs me that Canada has put out a travel advisory suggesting Canadians avoid visiting for the foreseeable future as we’ve got bonkers. Canadians are smart.

    6
  51. Kathy says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    The bible he used at his inauguration was his mother’s; it’s possible that the one he had yesterday was the same one.

    I hear he’s bummed because Pence told him to look for guidance in the Bible. He did. really, he tried to find guidance. Then he complained there’s plenty about St. Paul but nothing about Minneapolis.

    19
  52. An Interested Party says:

    (which involved Slaves and Jim Crow, to be sure, but those aren’t the things people gravitate towards first…)

    Oh? Seems like such people certainly gravitate towards keeping black people well beneath them in the social order…

  53. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: I think you and Marked Man are talking past each other, but by all means, keep picking the scab. I had eczema for decades and I know for a fact that picking at the scabs always helps.

    @MarkedMan: Same message to you. You made your point the first time. If he doesn’t want to consider it, that’s on him.

    6
  54. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: Oh. Well done. Very well done.

    3
  55. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: That’s my thumbs up on your comment.

  56. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    Excellent.

    1
  57. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: Oh, I think the Romantic Lost Cause resonates first, and then from there the latent/passive racism gets activated.

    1. Start with your rural community struggling, and a belief that your entire way of life is coming apart and needs to be defended.

    2. Get into the Southern mythos on a Dukes of Hazard level, adopting iconography. The Lost Cause revisionism resonates. It was designed to.

    3. Keep up with the Joneses next door, who are a bit more racist. Internalize the racist viewpoints and get comfortable expressing your own.

    12. Drive into the inner city, find some black folks and enslave them, declaring your house to be a plantation.

    Most people don’t go all the way to step 12.

    1
  58. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Since the rise of labor unions at the turn of the last century the US saw the common man advance relative to the wealthy.

    There it is again… you keep using common man when you mean “common white man.” Blacks and other minorities were excluded from labor unions throughout the County. Ditto homeownership via redlining.

    You can pretend that this is about “class” all you want. But America’s class system is based on RACE. Just like American’s criminal justice system is based on RACE. The “its all about class” is a lie that Moderate Progressives tell each other to protect ourselves from having to address far more uncomfortable topics (like repartations and ongoing state violence against minorities).

    It sucks to admit it — especially as a White progressive. It’s taken me *years* to fully understand it and be open to saying it out loud. But come here and work in the civic space and there is no denying it.

    I know a lot of people will see this as “talking past.” It’s not. It’s talking to the root of the problem.

    5
  59. mattbernius says:

    @Gustopher:

    Police are very Republican, by and large. And I don’t know what is up with mayors that are siding with police rather than their citizens.

    Wrap yourself up in that sweet protective blanket of “this is an issue with Republican cops.” You could fire ever conservative cop today, replace them with democrats, and without changing the underlying systems NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

    Again, I’m ultimately voting Democrat because that’s my best option at this point. BUT this type of comment makes the problem about *them*, not *us.* And I’m over that. I’m also taking steps professionally and outside of work to (1) own my role in continuing structures of oppression and (2) actually work on a range of solutions.

    5
  60. @mattbernius: @mattbernius: Well said.

    2
  61. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius:

    You can pretend that this is about “class” all you want. But America’s class system is based on RACE.

    It’s true that a large part of class conflict in the US is wrapped up in race. But class is the driver, race is just the most convenient way to divide into classes.

    Class based division is a human thing (hell – it’s an animal thing) and it exists in places where there are no racial differences, or where racial differences are so arbitrary they look ridiculous to outsiders. My Irish grandmothers, both of which were born in the late 19th century, would tell us to be respectful of our betters. I only saw them a few times and never really understood what “my betters” were, but knew enough not to ask.

    Just as in Europe, the US has plenty of class divisions that have little to do with race. If you think a poor white kid from a living in an un-airconditioned tar roofed house in West Virginia or a one-pair-of-shoes white kid living in a tiny apartment in a crummy neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago is growing up in a world where cops won’t beat on them and school administrators will steer them towards college, well, I think you are very wrong.

    2
  62. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It’s true that a large part of class conflict in the US is wrapped up in race. But class is the driver, race is just the most convenient way to divide into classes.

    Class based division is a human thing (hell – it’s an animal thing) and it exists in places where there are no racial differences, or where racial differences are so arbitrary they look ridiculous to outsiders.

    I think it overstates things to say that race is a subset of class; the history of racial animus here is too long and deep.

    But Nancy Isenberg does a phenemonal job in White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America of undermining the myth that the USA isn’t a class-based society. The reviews in WaPo and the NYT provide a decent summary.

    4
  63. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think it overstates things to say that race is a subset of class

    Class runs deep, as does aversion to physical differences. Supposedly if you take a monkey and dye it pink the other monkeys, despite living with it peacefully their whole lives, will descend on it en masse and kill it. But physical difference is absolutely not necessary to classing one group as “other” or inferior. The actual racial difference between the average Irishman and the average Englishman isn’t worth the price of a 23 and me test but that didn’t stop the British from classifying the “race” of Irish as subhuman and seizing the relief ships other countries sent during the Potato Famine when 1 in 8 Irish starved to death in the streets.

  64. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    You can pretend that this is about “class” all you want. But America’s class system is based on RACE. Just like American’s criminal justice system is based on RACE. The “its all about class” is a lie that Moderate Progressives tell each other to protect ourselves from having to address far more uncomfortable topics (like repartations and ongoing state violence against minorities).

    I have to agree with mattbernius, at least on this narrow point. The most effective anti-labor tactic the rich have had is to use the racism of the white poor to prevent solidarity with the black poor, then to pit black against white for jobs. The primary reason communism never really made it as a political movement in the US is that it couldn’t bridge the racial divide in the workforce. In the US, “class” is a cross-product of breeding, wealth, and race — and always has been.

    3
  65. charon says:

    Trump was messaging, pandering to the Christian Right with symbolism. Although condemned by most others, the Christian Right loved it.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/trumps-biblical-spectacle-outside-st-johns-church/612529/

    Headline:

    The Christians Who Loved Trump’s Stunt
    The president’s photo op outside St. John’s Church was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right.

    Excerpts:

    A few hours after the dystopian spectacle, I spoke on the phone with Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor and indefatigable Trump ally. He sounded almost gleeful.

    “I thought it was completely appropriate for the president to stand in front of that church,” Jeffress told me. “And by holding up the Bible, he was showing us that it teaches that, yes, God hates racism, it’s despicable—but God also hates lawlessness.”

    “So,” he added, “I’m happy.”
    In many ways, the president’s stunt last night—with its mix of shallow credal signaling and brutish force—was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right. As I’ve written before, most white conservative Christians don’t want piety from this president; they want power. In Trump, they see a champion who will restore them to their rightful place at the center of American life, while using his terrible swift sword to punish their enemies.

    This dynamic was on vivid display throughout the night. Even as cities across the country once again spiraled into chaos, prominent conservative evangelicals cheered Trump’s performance on Twitter.

    “I don’t know about you but I’ll take a president with a Bible in his hand in front of a church over far left violent radicals setting a church on fire any day of the week,” wrote David Brody, a news anchor at the Christian Broadcasting Network. (Trump selected St. John’s, which has hosted presidents since James Madison for worship services, because protesters had set a fire in its nursery the night before.)

    “I will never forget seeing [Trump] slowly & in-total-command walk … across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Church defying those who aim to derail our national healing by spreading fear, hate & anarchy,” wrote Johnnie Moore, the president of the Congress of Christian Leaders.

    In an email to me, Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, heaped praise on Trump for his visit: “His presence sent the twin message that our streets and cities do not belong to rioters and domestic terrorists, and that the ultimate answer to what ails our country can be found in the repentance, redemption, and forgiveness of the Christian faith.”

    2
  66. charon says:

    @charon:

    The thought occurs, though, that all those Christian Right leaders were already highly invested in Trump. I wonder if there are some rank and file followers who were not so very impressed.

    1
  67. CSK says:

    @charon:
    There may be a few. But most of them will keep it to themselves for fear of being cast into outer darkness by Cult45.

  68. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    It’s true that a large part of class conflict in the US is wrapped up in race. But class is the driver, race is just the most convenient way to divide into classes.

    And that’s an absolute load of shit and a common mistake of Progressive and Marxist analysis that collapse race and class together. I know that’s uncomfortable to hear, but it’s the truth. They are two separate things.

    @James Joyner that link is a great start on the topic.

    @DrDaveT:

    The most effective anti-labor tactic the rich have had is to use the racism of the white poor to prevent solidarity with the black poor, then to pit black against white for jobs. The primary reason communism never really made it as a political movement in the US is that it couldn’t bridge the racial divide in the workforce.

    BINGO. That’s a critical issue within this.

    Race and class are different, but (White) people are really uncomfortable talking about race because it forces a discussion of (White) supremacy (and how we are complicit in it). Unless of course it’s being used to call the South/Republicans/you name the other group “the real bad guys.” Then hey, it’s easy to talk about!

    In the US, “class” is a cross-product of breeding, wealth, and race — and always has been.

    So long as you are writing this to say that “White poor” and Black poor” are two different class entities with different needs and that the system is more or less literally structured against one (Black poor) and just happens to catch the other one up in it, then I can agree with that… Of course that system that’s designed to catch the Black poor also does a hell of a job of catching the Black Middle-Class and event the Black Rich at higher rates than anyone else…

    I wonder why that is.

    5
  69. MarkedMan says:

    @mattbernius:

    that the system is more or less literally structured against one (Black poor) and just happens to catch the other one up in it

    This just flies in the face of the entirety of human history and what went on in societies that had no meaningful racial distinction. Every society divides into classes, with the upper classes stealing the labor and efforts of the lower classes as, literally, their right. Yes, in the US the most obvious mark of class is skin color. You are absolutely correct about that. But you take it to far. If you took what you said to its logical conclusion, injustice would disappear if we all had the same shade of skin.

    I tell this to my kids. This belief that cops only beat up on brown kids has gotten an awful lot of white kids killed.

  70. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    This just flies in the face of the entirety of human history and what went on in societies that had no meaningful racial distinction.

    Pre-transatlantic slave trade, this might be right. I can’t speak to that — not my area of expertise.

    Post-transatlantic slave trade, this is absolute bullshit. The transatlantic slave trade fundamentally changes things in that it creates a racial hierarchy to justify itself. And that exists to this day in the US and many other countries touched by the trade. Or if you can find a historian who will back up your argument, bring it.

    If you took what you said to its logical conclusion, injustice would disappear if we all had the same shade of skin.

    Please point where I said that. I don;t believe it. But the fact is our current system is based on White Supremacy, which you and your kids benefit from. That’s part of White Privilege. Welcome to the club! It transcends class.

    Additionally, you’ll also find in less racially diverse countries far lower crime rates and far better social services — in part a significant aspect of that is due to the fact that those systems were not design to oppress and limit access to black people which in turn caught a lot of poor white folks up in that net.

    This belief that cops only beat up on brown kids has gotten an awful lot of white kids killed.

    Man the denialism is really deep with you color blind folks. No one said “only” — we did say *disproportionately.* In the extreme, because its functioning as intended.

    4
  71. mattbernius says:

    In an attempt to eat my own dogfood, here’s a good primer about how the modern US conception of race (and modern racial hierarchy) comes out of the transatlantic slave trade:

    https://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-02-09.htm

    3
  72. flat earth luddite says:

    @mattbernius:
    Amen! And a reminder to us “liberal left coasters” that being black in Oregon was flat-out illegal (but not generally enforced) until 1926.

    3
  73. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    This just flies in the face of the entirety of human history and what went on in societies that had no meaningful racial distinction.

    No, it doesn’t. The fact that societies with no convenient racial basis for discrimination nevertheless found ways to institute class discrimination does not, in any way, refute the overwhelming role of race in American social history.

    The richest black man in America cannot be high class, no matter how old the wealth nor how polished the manners. QED.

    4
  74. rachel says:

    @KM:

    Are you kidding? It was the Episcopalians that got attacked. Evangelicals consider them barely a step above Catholics…

    Besides, Bishop Curry the current presiding bishop (installed in 2015) of the Episcopal Church is a black man.

    2
  75. mattbernius says:

    Hey @MarkedMan, I just wanted to say I definitely came hard at this topic and you on this yesterday. These are really difficult times. And while I know for many what I’m writing reads as performative Wokeness, it’s not. It’s part of a 45+ year journey into these topics–from diving into race as anthropological context, working with black and indigenous scholars, diving into the criminal justice space, and now civic tech worked on patching a failing social safety net.

    It’s taken me to a LOT of uncomfortable spaces. And all of them lead to the same thing–these systems are operating as intended and they are operating to enforce a racial hierarchy inside the US.

    Which get’s me to something I suspect hit a very sour note:

    But the fact is our current system is based on White Supremacy, which you and your kids benefit from. That’s part of White Privilege. Welcome to the club! It transcends class.

    I won’t budge on the first point. Regardless of class, ultimately White folks in the US (all of us), as a group, benefit from this system. However, a lot of White folks are also punished by this same system. The measures put in place to prevent poor black people from accessing social services end up punishing poor white people as well. But make no mistake, those restrictions were put in place our of fear of “Welfare Queens.” Just in the same way that Felony Disenfranchisement laws hurt white folks with records, but were put in place to prevent black people from voting.

    So yes, a culture of white supremacy ultimately hurts people across all economic classes. Of that we can defintely agree. However, until we are able to go through the pain of talking about the root causes of this and its relation to race, we’re not going to remotely be able to get to the “color-blind” world that I know you want to be a part of (and trust me, it’s a sentiment I fully understand).

    4
  76. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @mattbernius: All those are salient facts to which I’d mostly agree. However, in order to generate the momentum needed for wholesale change…there is a huge disconnect on a personal level. When a white laborer comes to my house (I do look for a black-owned business first) Id sound like a fool discussing his privilege over me. By almost EVERY tangible measure of status (except maybe cars, I hate car payments) I’ve got the advantage: bigger house on a bigger lot, boat, investment property, expensive hobbies, hotter wife, etc. What is not so obvious, is that I had to get more credentialing, degrees, work twice as hard as the white peers in the same lane I’m in. I’m not sure how you square the circle of personal experience the way white privilege is currently framed. This is really where I see the difficultly with Kap (and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf ) was… this is a man who has status in society they could only dream of…who said he was an oppressed black man and they were complicit in his oppression. I can appreciate the sentiment that “I’m just out here trying to pay my bills but Im oppressing you?!?” Sorry, even if Kap was right….messaging and persuasion fail.

    For almost every American, police interactions are infrequent and rare so this another area that messaging and framing is hard. I will say that I’m unsure why the last video resonated more than the current. They all were horrible and made me want to retaliate against the police.

    At any rate Humans are hierarchical creatures and status is at the core of many of our interactions and aspirations. It manifests in different ways in society. You correctly point out that color as race was an invention of the 17th century to give moral cover to the commercial slave trade. Slaves taken in battle from conquered people…morally ok. But buying someone else’s enslaved conquered was perhaps a moral delima that needed resolving. I see “racism” as another expression of tribalism. Tribalism is programmed into the human psyche. And while I do think its futile to try to eliminate it…I do believe its possible to constrain our base instincts and mitigate their destructiveness. I’m sure there have been many with the urge to rape, kill, and steal that never indulged…finding a less damaging outlet for their sickness
    I believe that is an achievable outcome for the racism strain of tribalism.

    2
  77. mattbernius says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Lots of fair points raised and nuance that I agree with.

    And I get and appreciate your introspection.

    On the thing with Kap, all its demonstrated is how there is no acceptable form of protest of the racial inequality our system is founded on. Because there will always be someone not quite right about it. And that in itself is telling (because it points to how threatening everything is around race).

    One thing I do want to address directly:

    I will say that I’m unsure why the last video resonated more than the current.

    This video was the equivalent of the knife death in Saving Private Ryan… a slow torture while they knowingly (or at least uncaringly) killed him. Mix that with the moment, where Black folks are dying at disproportionate rates to C19, losing their jobs at disproportionate rates, about to start getting evicted at disproportionate rates, facing income insecurity at disproportionate rates and that’s what’s needed.

    Not to mention living under an openly White Supremacist president.

    4