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Trump and Police Brutality

Every time this writer believes, naively, that the antics of the Trump Administration could not possibly get any worse, they do. President Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts of America at their annual Jamboree seemed, then, to be the last straw. What could possibly be more inappropriate, damaging, and downright stupid, than telling young teenage boys about his electoral victory, criticizing his predecessor, and rambling about a New York party where ‘the hottest people’ had gathered? The executive of the BSA actually had to apologize to the scouters and their families. This writer couldn’t conceive of anything more bizarre.

But, as usual, Mr. Trump pulled another dysfunctional rabbit out of his tattered hat, and surprised this writer. This time, it was his speech to police officers of the Suffolk County Police Department, in New York. Incredibly, he said this: “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon. You just see them thrown in — rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee cleared it all up for us, when asked about Mr. Trump’s comments after the fact. Said she: “I believe he was making a joke at the time.”

Well, there you are! The U.S. president, widely respected in his own mind, was merely being humorous when telling police officers to be rough with people they arrest. That, of course, makes it acceptable.

The reaction from police organizations across the nation was mixed, and that is beyond troubling. Police departments generally denounced the statements, but police organizations, such as unions, and the group, Blue Lives Matter, did not. Some of those that criticized the statements include the following:

+ Police Department in Boston: Our “priority has been and continues to be building relationships and trust with the community we serve. As a police department we are committed to helping people, not harming them.”

+ New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill seemed shocked. To “”suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”

+ Maya Wiley, chairwoman of the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board, responded to the speech as follows: “But for many communities in our city, President Trump’s comments only (stoke) fears of interacting with officers. President Trump’s speech today was shameful, dangerous, and damages the progress our city has made toward improving police-community relations.”

Despite the long history of brutality that so many police departments exhibit, these statements, at least, said the right things, even if they are not practiced.

But what of other police organizations, those that represent the rank-and-file, the cops on the beat, who routinely assault and kill innocent people? These organizations supported Mr. Trump’s comments. We will look at a few statements, and comment on them.

John Becker, of the Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association, endorsed the president’s statements. Said he: “For the first time in many years we feel we have a president who supports law enforcement.”

Is not a basic premise of ‘law enforcement’ that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty? Mr. Trump’s words indicate that the suspect is guilty, that the arresting officers can mete out the punishment, and the burden of innocence rests on the suspect.

Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, proclaimed that there is “unwavering” support for Trump from law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. He further said: “Not surprisingly, (Trump’s) comments have been completely taken out of context by the racially exclusive and divisive profiteers seeking to call into question his support of all law abiding citizens and the law enforcement that live and work among them.”

How, one might ask, did ‘racially exclusive and divisive profiteers’ take the president’s statement out of context? Race was not mentioned, and the statement by Mr. Trump was clear. Also, if anything was divisive, it was the president’s statement. And lastly, how will people who are aghast at these statements profit from them?

One further wonders how Mr. Loomis is able to ascertain that ‘all law abiding citizens’ support the president. It seems that many of those citizens are shot and killed for no reason whatsoever by the police. This does not cause their survivors, or anyone throughout the country who cares about fairness and justice, to support ‘the law enforcement that live and work among them.’

The organization, Blue Lives Matter, used Mr. Trump’s preferred method of communication to respond, when it ‘Tweeted’ this, echoing Ms. Huckabee’s statement on the matter: “Trump didn’t tell police to go out & brutalize people as the media would have you believe. It was a joke.”

This writer begs to differ: going out and brutalizing people is exactly what the president told the police to do. Not that they were the very pictures of restraint prior to this speech, but it’s possible that his words will unleash police brutality unlike any seen since the Vietnam War protests.

So there we have it; this writer is once again astounded by the president south of this writer’s Canadian home, to which he fled during the Bush era. And while Justin Trudeu is hardly the epitome of justice and fairness (he’s a common shill for apartheid Israel), he is, at least, not a total embarrassment on the world stage, and has not, and is not expected to, endorsed police brutality.

To say that this writer is an example of white privilege would be an understatement. He does not, therefore, have to worry excessively when travelling in the U.S. that he will be brutalized by the local police because a tail light on his car has burned out. But for millions of people who are minorities, or even white but living in poor neighborhoods, fear of the police can only be healthy.  Mr. Trump’s words have made a bad situation worse.

Where it will end is anyone’s guess. What Mr. Trump will say next to cause chaos, division and turmoil in the country can’t possibly be anticipated. One waits in trepidation for the next speech, and the next presidential ‘tweet’.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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