As civil rights and racial justice protests have continued across the US for over three months, Gair Rhydd looks at US political rhetoric towards the Black Lives Matter movement, and how this is sure to be one defining feature of the 2020 Presidential elections.
By Dewi Morris | Political Editor
Black Lives Matter demonstrations have taken place in all 50 states, and some cities such as Portland, Oregon have seen protests every night since the murder of George Floyd on May 25.
President Trump, who declared himself “your President of law and order” has used the unrest of the summer as a case for re-election, claiming Democrats are too weak on taking actions against protestors he has called “thugs.”
Trump has continually called on city governors to deploy National Guard officers to manage the unrest, despite the protests being largely peaceful. Pentagon officials, such as Defence Secretary Mark Esper, are worried about the militarization of the police and law enforcement responding to protests.
The President’s response to the protests
On June 1, Trump promised that “if a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
The same day Trump made international news for his controversial photo op holding a Bible. A large peaceful protest had been dispersed using rubber bullets and tear gas to allow for the photo to take place.
81% of white evangelicals voted for President Trump in 2016. This photo op did however raise eyebrows from the evangelical community. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Guardian he believed the way the protestors were attacked by police was “morally wrong” and what the US needs “is moral leadership from all of us, in the churches, in the police departments, in the courts, and in the White House. The Bible tells us so.”
However, the photo did resonate with others, such as Rev Johnnie Moore, president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, who tweeted;
I will never forget seeing @POTUS @realDonaldTrump slowly & in-total-command walk from the @WhiteHouse across Lafayette Square to St. John's Church defying those who aim to derail our national healing by spreading fear, hate & anarchy. After just saying, "I will keep you safe." https://t.co/sH8jLg5pnz
— Rev. Johnnie Moore ن (@JohnnieM) June 1, 2020
On June 28, viral videos circulated of lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey pointing guns at protesters as they passed their home in Missouri. Donald Trump retweeted the video before deleting it.
The McCloskey’s were later charged with a felony for ‘unlawful use of a weapon’. Trump reacted to the judgement calling it ‘absolutely absurd.’ He claims the couple were rightly “defending themselves against violent protesters”.
The McCloskey couple were invited to speak at the Republican National Convention on August 24.
On July 1, Trump called Black Lives Matter “a symbol of hate” after New York City took the decision to paint the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the street outside Trump tower. Trump expressed in a tweet that he believed the slogan is “denigrating this luxury Avenue.”
New York Mayor, Bill de Blasio, defended the decision saying, “Obviously we want the president to hear it because he’s never shown respect for those three words,”
On the same day, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called Black Lives Matter “a Marxist organization…who [have] been planning to destroy the police for three years.”
Later, on August 6, Giuliani attacked Black Lives Matter on Fox News, saying, “These are people who hate white people… These are killers.”
On August 23, Jacob Blake was shot by police, triggering further unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
On August 25, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse shot three protestors, killing two, in Kenosha.
Kentucky Republican congressman Thomas Massie defended Kyle Rittenhouse. Fox News shared a similar sentiment claiming Rittenhouse was “maintaining order when no one else would.” Kentucky Democrats have called on Kentucky Republicans to “disavow Massie’s comments immediately.”
The unrest has become a battleground for the presidential race as both Donald Trump and Joe Biden visited Kenosha.
What’s the latest?
On September 2, Trump threatened to cut funding for Democrat-run cities where unrest continues, claiming their city leaders are allowing “anarchy, violence, and destruction.” This move has been criticised as an act of vengeance to punish citizens who live in Democrat-supporting areas.
On September 4, Trump took action by cancelling race related training sessions for federal agencies.
Federal agencies in the US received racial awareness training which taught of white privilege.
Trump has called these training sessions “divisive” as they allegedly teach that the US is an “inherently racist” country. However, experts argue racial awareness training is vital to combat institutional racism in the US. Attorney, M.E Hart, has said that training sessions such as these are also pivotal to understanding unconscious bias.
Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russell Vought, stated “We cannot accept our employees receiving training that seeks to undercut our core values as Americans and drive division within our workforce.”
Rhetoric towards the protests over the summer have been used by the Republicans as a reason to re-elect Trump, as it has been used by the Democrats to elect Joe Biden. This is bound to continue as the November vote looms closer.