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GASSING PROTESTORS FOR A PHOTO-OP

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

June 2, 2020

Wait, did police just brutalize people protesting police brutality …?


I believe Trump had his lowest moment as President yesterday. Of course, I’ve thought that many times before.


But today was one for the record books. Quite literally. I believe that 50 years from now, America’s 45th President will be remembered for ordering National Guard troops to tear gas peaceful protesters so he could pose for a photo op in front of a church.


There are so many things wrong with what he did that I have no choice but to actually list them.


1. The protesters were peaceful, unarmed, and exercising their Constitutional right to assembly.


2. The incident took place in Washington, D.C. almost half an hour before the citywide 7 p.m. curfew.


3. Trump had just delivered an address in the Rose Garden in which he called himself “an ally” of the protesters and said that “my first and highest duty as President is to defend the great country and the American people” … before announcing he would unlawfully deploy military force against protesters if states were unwilling to “take necessary action.”


4. There was no reason to clear the plaza between St. John’s Church and Lafayette Park, except that’s where Trump wanted to be photographed. There was no reason to do it at twenty minutes before 7:00, except Trump wanted to exert some force on those protesters.



Photo: TheDailyBeast.com


5. While the tear gas and rubber bullets were going off, a Black Hawk helicopter hovered menacingly over protesters’ heads, low enough to slice off treetops. This was apparently an expression of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s instruction to governors to “dominate the battle space,” by which he surely meant to say, “the public streets paid for by taxpayer dollars, where peaceful, taxpaying protestors have been lawfully assembling.”





6. In the melee, Australian journalists covering the protest were hit by police batons and a riot shield, tear-gassed, and shot with rubber bullets, prompting U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse, Jr,. to rebuke America in a statement today. Australian viewers watching the news while eating breakfast saw the scene play out live.


7. In another rebuke to the White House, police officers from Arlington, Virginia were called away when the National Guard and local law enforcement charged into the "battle space," some on horseback, in response to being ordered to set off tear gas, strike protestors and shoot rubber bullets into the crowd.



Photo: wvxu.org


8. Once arrived at St. John's (known as "the church of the Presidents" because all of them have visited and prayed there, except, um, one), Trump didn’t go inside, he didn’t pray, and he didn’t deliver any kind of spiritual message while standing in front of St. John’s.



9. Daughter Ivanka carried the Bible in a Max Mara handbag worth $1,540, was the one to hand it to her her father, and is said to be the person who masterminded the idea of the photo-op.



Photo: NYTimes.com


10. Although the Bible Trump brandished for the camera was not upside down, as many claimed after the event, the President did look at it curiously once or twice, possibly trying to decide which way was right-side up, or how it opened.


So that’s just a quick list. I think what will give yesterday its historic significance in years to come will be the many ironies: that after dubbing himself the “law and order President,” Trump in fact broke the law by assaulting citizens who were protesting lawfully.


His threat to send federal militia to states against the will of local governments is also unlawful, according to legal experts.


And then there are his enablers. During his walk across the plaza, the President was accompanied by Ivanka, her husband Jared (hey, is he still in charge of bringing coronavirus under control in America?) and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr. None of them intervened on legal grounds or, for that matter, moral ones.



Holds a standard-sized Bible, and so much more.


I’m sure I could come up with a much longer list than 10! But instead let me quote Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, who today was one of a chorus of clerical voices condemning the President’s use of a church and Bible as “props” for his photo op.


“[President Trump] did not offer a word of balm or condolence to those who are grieving. He did not seek to unify the country, but rather he used our symbols and our sacred space as a way to reinforce a message that is antithetical to everything that the person of Jesus, whom we follow, [represents] and [to] the gospel texts that we strive to emulate,” she said.


James Mattis, Trump’s former defense secretary and a retired Marine Corps general, expressed contempt for the President’s “abuse of executive authority” in using military force “to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens.” He also called the photo op “bizarre.”






It’s true that even to a public as toughened to hypocrisy as we’ve become, this photo op stands out.


It was, Graham says,”just the latest example of the president’s total inability to even pretend to be a practicing Christian. He has referred to the book of “Second Corinthians” as “Two Corinthians,” called Communion “my little wine and my little cracker,” and failed to name a favorite Bible verse."


She then cited the much discussed 2015 interview in which he told an interviewer that he had never asked for forgiveness from God.


It’s not for me or anyone to say whether anyone else should seek God’s forgiveness. But I think President Trump, Mark Esper, Bill Barr — oh, and Ivanka and Jared — should be asking forgiveness from the protesters and journalists who were shot with rubber bullets, assaulted with batons, tear-gassed, chased by police on horseback, and terrorized by a churning helicopter overhead.


And that doesn't even include any forgiveness that might be needed for the photo op.


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