Monday Reads: U.S. is Burning

Photo by Xena Goldman

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to know where to start today. There’s so much chaos from the Pandemic, the actions, words, and inactions of the Trumpist regime, and protests and disrupters triggered by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer that making order of disorder is a challenge.

Trumperz took to his Bunkerz with his Big Macs and his bankie last not only to announce this morning that the state’s governors are weak and need to make more arrests.  As usual, he has a weak understanding of the constitution, the law, and the path to justice and peace.

. I watched the coverage last night of fires burning in Lafayette Park.  From the AP: 

Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.

Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and shoes

Child was maced by officer JARED CAMPBELL (SPD#8470) at the Seattle protests May 30, 2020.

Trump has made no public appearance lately but has been tweeting gas bombs that are igniting more fires.  Michael Tomasky–of The Daily Beast–warns: “Trump Is Out of Control and Capable of Anything. IT GETS WORSE. He is so morally unfit to be president. If he were president of a bank, he’d have been fired ages ago. School principal—fired. Partner of a law firm—fired.”

He sits in the White House, which belongs to the people of the United States, and tweets out poison with no thought about any of this. I remember during the Lewinsky scandal, conservatives used to scream about how Bill Clinton sullied “our house.” Are you kidding me? Using the White House as a love nest is almost cute compared to how Trump soils the place on an hourly basis.

And after that looting/shooting tweet, it’s obvious that he will do and say literally anything to advance himself. Anything. He sort of half-apologized for that one, but he’s been tweeting more calls for violence, supposedly to restore order, ever since. The big worry I’ve had in the back of my mind since Trump took over the GOP back in 2016 and we started seeing those rallies is that Trump would literally raise a private army. Mad ny of his fervent backers own guns, and sometimes stockpiles of them. All it would take is a suggestion from Trump, in that on-the-one-hand-on-the-other noncommittal way of his: “I don’t know, if the police can’t handle it, maybe armed citizens should form their own patrols. Maybe they shouldn’t. But maybe they should, who knows? Thank you!”

That would be fascism, plain and simple. I used to think, or hope anyway, that Trump wouldn’t encourage that. And maybe he won’t. But after this past week, can anyone be confident that he wouldn’t?

He’ll spend the campaign vomiting out lies about how the “Democrat” Party is going to steal the election. He’ll spew out racist lies about voter fraud. Fox News will find one example of some small thing that they can make look suspicious and dishonestly blow into a scandal. Armed posses in black neighborhoods on Election Day—not an impossibility at all. The whole country will become 1950s Mississippi, if that’s what Trump thinks he needs to win.

And then if he loses, imagine what might happen. I shudder to think, and I don’t even have to spell it out. I know this is all hypothetical, and I don’t want to sound alarmist, but at the same time, being alarmist is less dangerous than being naive. We better think about these things. Trump is out of control. He’s capable of anything.

Children Attend Black Lives Matter Justice for George Floyd ...

Not even Trump allies can reach his addled brain and dark heart any more.  From NBC: “Trump dismissing advice to tone down rhetoric, address the nation.”

As the roar of police helicopters and chanting crowds reverberated through the White House grounds for a third night, Trump again opted against making prime-time remarks from the Oval Office, as other presidents have done in times of domestic crisis.

Instead, he spent the day on Twitter, doubling down on a strategy of calling for stronger police tactics, a move critics say is only worsening the situation.

Trump’s advisers have been divided over what role the president should take in responding to the widest unrest the country has seen in decades. Some say Trump should focus his message on Floyd, the black man who died last week at the hands of Minneapolis police, and urge calm. Others say the top priority is stopping the violence and looting that have taken place in some areas, arguing that the best path to that end is strong police tactics, not presidential speeches.

But exactly who is doing all this disruption?  Is it Trump’s latest imaginary Hillary?  Antifa?  This is not what Police all over the country have indicated.

UK, Germany, Canada, and across the world: George Floyd protests ...

Hundreds marched at Trafalgar Square to protest the death of George Floyd in London on May 31. Hollie Adams/Getty Images

This is from News 4 Nashville.  We’re waiting for more information but we’ll see what motivated him sooner or later.  There have been much better responses.  Take this missive at Medium from our last authentic President, Barrack Obama.

As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.

Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.

First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.

So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.

Indeed, Police Reform is hard and necessary. We’re not perfect here in New Orleans but Katrina brought us to a better place.  I watched Boston PD handle their protests last night too.  It was a marked difference from New York City and LA where the historical worst examples still shine on.  Today, we learned Mayor DiBlasio’s Daughter Chiara was arrested in NYC protests.  There was also NYPD officers who took the knee with the protesters as seen in this pic below as well as video capturing a white NYPD officer flashing the white supremacy sign.

NYPD cops take a knee beside protesters in solidarity

Here are some links to think on :

Jonathan Chait / New York Magazine:
Trump Killed Obama’s Police Reforms. Now He’s Getting What He Asked For.

Last October, Minneapolis Police Union president Bob Kroll appeared at a Trump rally. Clad in his red “Cops for Trump” T-shirt, Kroll (who has been alleged to be affiliated with white supremacists) gloated that the president had unshackled his officers from the restraints imposed by Trump’s predecessor. “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable,” he told the crowd. “The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around, got rid of the Holder-Loretta Lynch regime and decided to start takin— letting the cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.”

We will never know if that unshackling emboldened Derek Chauvin to murder George Floyd. But the line between the relief demanded by Kroll on behalf of Minneapolis police, and the naked assassination committed on camera by one of his officers, is quite direct. The world around us, in which the streets of every major American city are filled with protesters, is the result of Trump granting the wishes of the most retrograde police officers. They are getting what they asked for.

The last few years of the Obama administration were one of the most productive periods of criminal justice reform in American history. The Obama administration changed sentencing guidelines to reduce the disparity in the treatment of drug crimes that had disproportionately harmed black defendants. As part of an effort to inculcate a “guardian, not a warrior” mindset, it restricted the transfer of surplus military equipment to police departments. Most importantly, it formed consent decrees with more than a dozen police departments to force them to change their practices.

This was the context for Trump’s nightmarish claims in 2016 that cities were being overtaken by bloodshed and carnage. Whatever wisps of data he could cite to support his wild rhetoric, Trump was drawing a picture borrowed from the imaginations of resentful police who experienced Obama’s carefully drawn nudges as intolerable oppression.

He reversed them swiftly. Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, ended the restriction on transferring military equipment to police, reviewed all consent decrees struck by his predecessor, and then restricted their use going forward. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” he insisted.

NBC News:

Since the beginning of 2015, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department have rendered people unconscious with neck restraints 44 times, according to an NBC News analysis of police records. Several police experts said that number appears to be unusually high.

Minneapolis police used neck restraints at least 237 times during that span, and in 16 percent of the incidents the suspects and other individuals lost consciousness, the department’s use-of-force records show. A lack of publicly available use-of-force data from other departments makes it difficult to compare Minneapolis to other cities of the same or any size.

Police define neck restraints as when an officer uses an arm or leg to compress someone’s neck without directly pressuring the airway. On May 25, Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the neck of a prone and handcuffed George Floyd for eight minutes — including nearly three minutes after he had stopped breathing.

The story of many of these cities is they have silenced any discourse on racism and inequality and have continued the status quo which keeps minorities in their appointed neighborhoods, at the most underfunded schools, and then constantly show the worst wage and wealth gaps any where.  I grew up in these places.  The interstate systems were designed specifically to pen up black folks and to create as big as distance as possible without actual Jim Crow Laws.

Minneapolis used urban renewal money for this too.  They have white flight communities still.  It’s a stewpot for oppression in a way that keeps it hidden to the many and obvious to the few.

But then, live on CNN, we see an exchange between the young black police chief of Minneapolis and George Floyd’s brother facilitated by a reporter who is visibly moved.  From Axios: “Minneapolis police chief to George Floyd’s brother: “Mr. Floyd died in our hands”.  Will Minneapolis wake?

Philonise Floyd asked Arradondo if he plans to arrest all officers involved in his brother’s death. “Being silent, or not intervening, to me, you’re complicit. So I don’t see a level of distinction any different,” he responded, adding that “Mr. Floyd died in our hands, and so I see that as being complicit.” He noted charges would come through the county attorney office.

And in Omaha on Saturday: THIS!

A young black protester was shot dead outside a bar in Omaha as unrest across the nation engulfed the Nebraska city—and the white bar owner was reportedly in custody.

The victim was identified as 22-year-old James Scurlock, whose father called for justice as the city braced for another night of chaos.

I’m saving one topic we also need to discuss which I know will be covered well by BB.  The police have not only been attacking protesters in some cities, they have been attacking members of the press.

These actions should create a tremendous amount of reaction on the part of people who want us to keep our democracy and our republic.  These are those who work forces and want  racist based police state.  And here’s The Hair Furor arising from his FurorBunker.  From USA Today: “‘Most of you are weak’: Trump rails at the nation’s governors, urges crackdown on violence.”

 President Donald Trump went on an extended rant against the nation’s governors Monday, calling them “weak” for failing to quell the violence in the nation’s cities.

“You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people,” he told governors on a conference call. “If you don’t put it down it will get worse and worse.”

“Most of you are weak,” Trump said, according to audio of the meeting obtained by CBS News. “You have to arrest people.”

Attorney General Bill Barr, who was also on the Monday call, told governors they have to “dominate” the streets and control, not react to crowds, and urged them to “go after troublemakers.”

Trump’s remarks to the governors followed a sixth day of clashes Sunday between police and protesters in cities across the nation that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

NYPD officer flashes white power hand gesture and laughs about it ...

This blurry video pic is of a NYPD officer flashing the White Power Sign on Saturday night

I think what former President Obama spoke to is a good strategy. Local officials–under guidance, resources,  and a national strategy from  Congress–need to start where they are and create plans to incorporate and redress the community in addition to take huge steps to deinstitutionalize racism.

You can see by the varying responses that our cities are on a spectrum of how far they need to go and it’s not going to be Trump or Barr that can judge that.  Only those of us living in those communities can come together to change things on the ground by ensuring we know all of the issues and provide all of the support we can to correct these wrongs. We need a national conversation and very local action, input, and consideration of history on that ground where blood was shed.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?




23 Comments on “Monday Reads: U.S. is Burning”

  1. dakinikat says:

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      For heaven’s sake. Unless there’s some indication those cops meant it in that utterly horrible way, could people maybe have the generosity to consider how a gesture is *meant* before jumping on it?

      If we can’t even express common humanity with others, we’re all doomed.

  6. palhart says:

    It will be a huge relief if Governor Cooper says no to Trump and the 2020 RNC June 3rd.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

    Trump is off his rocker. I just read more about what he said to the governors.

    ‘Unhinged’ Trump Demands Mass Arrests, Flag-Burning Laws

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Trump says he is going to deploy the U.S. military to put down the protesters. He is insane.

    • bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      He is *itching* to apply martial law. Like his buddies, the Big Boy dictators.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Our Republican governor is disgusted with Trump. WGBH Boston:

    Watch: Baker Criticizes Trump’s ‘Bitterness, Combativeness And Self-Interest’ During Pandemic, Police Protests

    Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday criticized President Donald Trump’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic and recent protests against police violence roiling the country over the past week.

    “At so many times during these past several weeks when the country needed compassion and leadership the most it was nowhere to be found,” he said. “Instead we got bitterness, combativeness and self-interest.”

    In a call with governors from across the country earlier Monday, Trump told them they “have to get much tougher. … Most of you are weak. You have to arrest people.”

    Baker said he was not on the call with Trump, as he was busy working on preparations to further reopen the state this week.

    “I heard what the president said today about dominating and fighting,” Baker said. “I know I should be surprised … but I’m not.”

    Baker’s comments against the president were unusual, as the governor has typically not been so outspoken against Trump.

    “That’s not what we need in Boston. It’s not what we need right now in Massachusetts. And it’s not what we need in this country of ours, either,” Baker said, referring to Trump’s handling of protests against police brutality.

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. bostonboomer says:

    The Daily Beast: Protesters Tear-Gassed for Trump ‘Law and Order’ Photo Op

    As D.C. police tear-gassed peaceful protesters outside the White House, the president promised to stop “acts of domestic terror” in a nearly six-minute speech.

    It was unclear if Trump had invoked the 19th century Insurrection Act, which empowers the president, in cases of “unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States” to use the military “to suppress the rebellion.” But he said if the governors “refuse to take action” for that suppression “then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

    “I think he’s already crossed the Rubicon,” said Eugene R. Fidell, a senior research scholar at Yale Law School and one of the nation’s premiere experts in military law.

    Fidell said Trump cannot suspend the writ of habeas corpus, but the nation might see “a further challenge” to the federal courts’ role as guarantors of the constitutional order.

    “The president has declared war on the federal system,” Fidell said. “In a host of ways, he has labored to emasculate the states as separate sovereigns. This evening’s developments have to be understood in this broader cont. I believe the circumstances we’re now seeing augur in a chapter where the most settled parts of the American national government—the relationship between the federal union and sovereign states—are under assault.” “The Framers,” Fidell continued, “would be appalled if they were somehow made aware of this.”

  13. bostonboomer says:

  14. palhart says:

    Next move: martial law. Maybe some tanks on DC streets would add a nice dominating touch.

    Trump is weak and a world-wide laughing stock, not most of our governors. He’s put a heavy burden on my governor.