Although Donald Trump’s initial reaction to the death of George Floyd was surprisingly empathetic, past precedent suggested that stance wouldn’t last.
Sure enough, a day later Trump repurposed a phrase with an extremely racially charged history, in order to seemingly threaten protesters with a violent response.
His tweet – which called those demonstrating against police brutality “thugs” and warned that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” – was ‘hidden’ by Twitter for “glorifying violence”.
And as protests have spread across the US, Trump’s response has only got more virulent.
On Friday night, demonstrators convened outside the White House, while Trump reportedly fled “to a bunker”.
The Washington DC protests continued over the weekend, including last night when fires broke out near the White House.
During the day protesters had marched through the city, chanting the names of black individuals who died at the hands of police.
When crowds gathered outside the White House, they were greeted by Secret Service agents who blasted protesters with pepper spray and tear gas.
But as demonstrators yelled “Say his name!” outside the White House gates, Trump was busy tweeting.
At around 6pm EDT, he amplified a theory being peddled that “60 per cent” of people arrested in Minneapolis during protests were out of state agitators – the implication being that the anger on show was not coming from people who lived there.
However Time Magazine reports that arrest records seem to show that only 21 out of 142 people arrested from Friday to Sunday weren’t Minneasotans.
Trump then retweeted himself, attacking outlets like the New York Times and CNN for “fake news” before tweeting in all caps “LAW & ORDER!” at 6.52pm EDT.
As the night wore on, he also retweeted his near-universally slammed assertion that the US would be “designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization”.
Critics quickly pointed out that ‘Antifa’ is an “adjective, not a group”, with no centralised anti-fascist organisation existing.
A “domestic terrorism” designation also does not exist.
A former FBI agent said Trump’s order had more to do with “encouraging violence” against protesters. Speaking to The Daily Beast, Mike German said:
It’s somewhat of another method of Trump’s rhetoric giving aid and comfort to white supremacists and militias and encouraging violence, whether it’s state violence, police violence, or non-state groups.
The effort to label the demonstrators as ‘outsiders’ was meant to justify an increasingly aggressive and violent police response. That was indiscriminate. You didn’t see them attack ‘outsiders,’ you saw them attack people in the streets and journalists.
Trump continued tweeting as protesters clashed with police, writing at 9.09pm EDT ‘FAKE NEWS’, although it was unclear who or what the allegation was directed at.
As the Washington DC 11pm curfew was enforced, with the National Guard being called in, Trump finished off his evening of tweets, by reposting an accusation that the media were fueling “hatred and anarchy”.
He logged off, with still no reference made to the main purpose of the protests: a call for racial equality for black people.
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