Trump on protests is new low of presidency

A good leader is someone who guides people to a peaceful resolution in times of crisis; who makes use of the power of office to improve the lives of those they represent. But our president, Donald Trump, has continuously failed to live up to an even passable standard as a leader. 

      At a time when the nation is enveloped in countless crises, he held a photo op that proved once and for all, to all parties, that he lacks even a shred of decency.

Currently embroiled in controversy surrounding his response to the protests over George Floyd’s death, Trump made the decision last Monday to use both the police and National Guard to clear peaceful protesters out of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. This authoritarian display of power demonstrated to many a clear disregard for both human life and national law. 

Trump’s own former defense secretary, James Mattis, denounced his use of federal officers in an interview with The Atlantic just two days later.

“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath [to support and defend the Constitution] would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens,” Mattis said.

Rather than displaying support for the protesters as many other politicians have, the photo op shows the president holding a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. That evening, he addressed the nation in a speech claiming himself to be “your president of law and order.” Clearly, though, he has regard for neither, as even some of his staunch supporters recognize that what he did was a display of excessive force in the face of peaceful protests.

Evidenced by this move, it appears that Trump was ready to follow through on his promise to use the National Guard to “assume control” over areas with active protests. Alongside this statement, Trump tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a post that was promptly flagged by Twitter as “glorifying violence.” Nonetheless, it seems that the president is ready to abuse his power on a whim to violently put down the Black Lives Matter protests.

Many have drawn comparisons to Trump’s response to the late-April anti-quarantine protests. Those demonstrations, also peaceful, were free of the use of police force. Not only that, but some were even supported by Trump himself, who tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” 

Trump supporters argued that April protests were peaceful, which is why they weren’t met with opposition and force. However, the cause of violence in the current Black Lives Matter protests comes from the police presence itself. More often than not, policemen have been the ones to incite violence rather than protesters.

One cannot help but draw connections to the racial composition of the crowd as well. In the anti-quarantine protests, the majority were white, some even carrying guns, and met with little police presence or intervention. Trump supported these publicly. As for the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, where great racial diversity is present, Trump denounced them and called for violence against the protesters whom he dubbed “thugs.” 

Although many of the protests grew violent, many dispute that protesters themselves were the cause. The majority of activists in support of the Black Lives Matter protests agree that looters and rioters were not members of the protests, just people taking advantage of the chaos for their own benefit.

 Outside the realm of speculation, federal prosecutors are currently in search of disruptors who incited violence and destruction to discredit protests in Atlanta. Despite all this, Trump maintains that it’s the protesters themselves who are destroying and looting the nation’s cities.

In one case, he even went so far as to allege that 75-year-old Martin Gugino, who suffered a severe head injury after being shoved by police officers at a Buffalo protest, was an “ANTIFA provocateur” who exaggerated his fall. This comment was likely intended to serve the dual purposes of demonizing Antifa, a loosely defined movement against Fascist elements of the U.S. government, which Trump has gone to great lengths to discredit in recent weeks, and disparage the protesters. 

Instead, Trump’s tweet had the opposite effect. The footage of Gugino’s fall is widely available online, and it’s plain as day that Gugino was neither in Antifa uniform, nor was the incident a “set up” as Trump called it—at the time of the tweet, Gugino was still in the hospital from his head injury.

Trump’s eagerness to slander protesters became his downfall in this case, as the evidence that he lied is widely available. This led many more of his supporters, some who identified with Gugino’s peaceful nature and religious devotion, to question their faith in him.

 Not only had President Trump lost what little of a reputation he had left with members of his own party, he further damaged his already broken reputation with the Democratic Party. The only question that remains is whether Trump has turned away enough of his voters to prevent his reelection in November.