Monday, June 1, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He ordered peaceful protestors tear-gassed to make a point, and get a photo op.

Shortly before 7 p.m. tonight, Trump addressed the nation from the Rose Garden at the White House. The brief remarks were intended to paint Trump as a "law and order" president who would use the military to crack down on the civil unrest that has raged in American cities over the past week—whether state and local officials wanted it there or not.

Referring to the Washington, D.C. protests that he watched from a secure White House bunker last night, Trump said: "As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers."

This turned out to be literally true: at that very moment, and timed to begin just before Trump spoke, federal and military police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets on a peaceful protester near the White House.

To be clear, at the time Trump deployed the United States military against American citizens, there was no hint of violence or destruction of property, and the protestors were not yet even in violation of the 7:00 p.m. curfew.

Trump then proceeded on foot through the cleared area to the nearby St. John's Episcopal Church. Its basement nursery suffered some fire damage last night. He grimaced at cameras while he held up a Bible in front of the church during a brief photo op.

The church itself had expressed support for the same kind of peaceful protestors that Trump's military police charge targeted. It appears the church wasn't consulted about Trump's stunt: later this evening, the bishop of that church said she was "outraged" by Trump's use of the church in a way that she called "antithetical to the teachings of Jesus."

UPDATE: An Episcopal priest who is a rector at St. John's and a seminarian were among the protestors driven off the grounds of the church by military police to clear the way for Trump's photo op.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • Using the military as a domestic police force targeting at the leader's enemies is what dictators do.
  • Americans who respect churches and bibles might not like seeing them used as props.