Of all the world leaders, Donald Trump is the last that we would ever want to see deal with protests and riots over race and equality. Not once has he made any attempt to hide his contempt for racial minorities and anyone with a BAME heritage. He is now the highest authority of a country experiencing the greatest level of civil unrest since the 1970s. His decision to approve the use of tear gas, curfews and the National Guard has been the most militant reaction to protests that many have seen in their lifetimes. It will not be forgotten by election time.
His speech from “the rose garden” effectively declared martial law in any state where the Governor would not deploy National Guard in great enough numbers to drive people off the streets in fear for their lives. His approval of the use of tear gas is a particularly brutal measure, and not just because the symptoms it causes will contribute to the continued spread of COVID-19.
For context, tear gas was developed as a torture device. Its use was prohibited during warfare at the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention. Yes, you heard me. Tear gas is technically considered a chemical weapon, not considered humane enough to be used in wartime, and yet was deployed on US citizens by their own president for a photo op.
In the same thirty seconds of his June 1st speech, he also had the gall to say that he is “an ally of all peaceful protestors”. Despite this, by deploying the military or militarized forces against the protests, Trump is perpetuating the violence. We all know about his Twitter addiction: he can’t keep off it. Either he is blind or intentionally so, as the platform has been flooded over the last few days with videos and news reports of police harassment and violence against completely peaceful protests.
If you pay particular attention, Trump also swore that he would protect the increasingly controversial second amendment right to bear arms. This was obviously a nod to Trump’s support base, many of whom are stringent defenders of their guns and weaponry. Cast your mind back to the protests in the US over the COVID-19 lockdown protests, many of these “peaceful protestors” came out armed to the teeth with automatic weaponry. They were not harassed; they were not beaten, and they were not gassed.
In his speech, Trump claimed that “justice would be served” for George Floyd and that “he will not have died in vain”. However, he has offered the peaceful protesters he claimed to love so much no real action, and no real response. Not one mention of support for the arrest of Derek Chavin, the police officer who took George Floyd’s life. Not one mention of an enquiry or investigation. Not into this specific case or the hundreds of other cases of police brutality which have been perpetrated since records began.
If we weren’t already convinced that Donald Trump is the epitome of privilege, the epitome of ignorance and the epitome of the racist establishment, then we ought to be now. No leader has the right to effectively declare war on their own citizens for protesting their right to live; their right to breathe. His wilful ignorance to the suffering around him has never been clearer and his intentional blindness to the brutal suppression of peaceful protestors leaves us with no doubt that Trump cannot be considered an “ally” (as if we had any before).
Never before has Trump been quite so violent. With a presidential election looming, Trump may be trying to reach out to his support base by safeguarding the Second Amendment, but few exposed to his chemical attacks will forget what this man truly stands for.