May 31, 2020
Protests continue across the country in the wake of George Floyd's murder by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis last Monday.
Black Americans and their allies have had enough of unequal justice in America.
After that observation, the field gets very confusing, very fast. It appears that the protests have been infiltrated by white people bent on causing destruction, but to what end? Are they anarchists eager to destroy the state; white supremacists seeking to discredit black protesters; or bored young people thinking rioting is cool? Or all of the above?
Arrests might give us some leads. Tonight, Nashville police arrested a 25-year-old white man for setting fire to Nashville’s Historic Courthouse last night. He was one of three caught on video attacking the building; the other two were African Americans, one man and one woman. Police have also arrested the man who drove a tanker truck into protesters in Minneapolis.
Also notable is that some police officers are attacking protesters and journalists, while others are honoring their badges and listening to the protesters. In some cities, police are escalating the tensions while in others, they are kneeling in a sign of solidarity with the protesters and joining them as they march.
In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz has appointed Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to lead the case against Chauvin, whose murder of Floyd was captured in a widely circulated video. The Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman, had charged Chauvin with third-degree murder, but has not yet charged the other three officers present, two of whom were actively participating in the arrest. Floyd’s family had asked that Attorney General Keith Ellison take over the case.
In all this confusion, it feels like the lines are becoming clearer between those determined to reclaim fairness and equality before the law in America, and those determined to destroy civil society altogether.
For all the uncertainty, there was one very clear story today. Although he tweeted angrily, Trump stayed out of sight, and from the safety of the White House continued to feed the flames burning America. “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy,” he tweeted this morning, apparently unmoved by the videos of journalists arrested and shot with rubber bullets last night. “As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS.”
He announced “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” although there is actually no organized group of radicals identified as Antifa (a term drawn from "anti-fascist"), and U.S. law does not permit the government to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations anyway. “FAKE NEWS!” he tweeted, and “LAW & ORDER!”
Trump’s attempt to project strength took on quite a different cast when a New York Times story this evening revealed that he had spent an hour Friday night in the White House underground bunker, where Secret Service had taken him. The Associated Press reported that Trump has told advisors he is worried for his safety, and that he and his family “have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” according to “a Republican close to the White House.”
An A. P. story then offered a doozy of a paragraph: “As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.”
That Trump hid in the White House while he was urging others to violence captures his personality, but it undercuts his carefully crafted image as a man of courage. The leak of this story is itself astonishing: we should not know how a president is being protected, and that Trump is bullying to project an image of being a tough guy while he is actually hiding is a big story, especially since presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters today. And to admit that Trump has no policy proposals and has no interest in delivering a message of unity…. Wow.
A curfew goes into effect at 11:00 tonight in Washington, D.C. For the past several days, trouble has begun as peaceful protesters go home, leaving the streets to those spoiling for a fight. As 11:00 hits, crowds around the White House are setting fires and attempting to break into the White House grounds.
Just before the curfew, the lights that usually illuminate the outside of the White House were turned off.