Friday, May 29, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He ran away from his own attempts to incite racial violence.

At 12:53 A.M. this morning, Trump warned what he called "THUGS" at protests over the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that he would order them shot if looting continued. 

Specifically, he wrote, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." This is a direct quote from Walter Headley, an openly racist Miami police chief in the 1960s notorious for targeting civil rights protestors. As a wire service story in 1967 wrote:

Headley said, “we don’t mind being accused of police brutality.” “They haven’t seen anything, yet.” Headley said Miami hasn't been troubled with racial disturbances and looting because he let the word filter down, “When the looting starts, the shooting stars.” 

Twitter hid the tweet behind a content warning for its potential to incite violence. Trump then tried posting it to the official White House account, but the warning followed it there.

But at a "press conference" today, Trump was unwilling to take questions and totally avoided the subject of the nationwide demonstrations. At a later event, he claimed not to know the history behind the phrase, but said it was "very accurate."

It is not at all accurate. Police—even in Headley's time—do not actually shoot into angry crowds just to suppress looting, for reasons that would be obvious to most people. 

But Trump has a long history of inciting violence, either by police or mobs, against people of color or simply people he sees as his enemies, and may have genuinely thought this was something he could order police or the National Guard to do.

Why should I care?

  • Talking tough on the internet and then running away when someone calls you on it is what emotional teenagers do.
  • Presidents are supposed to have better solutions to serious problems than just threatening to shoot Americans.