Laura Clawson / The Daily Kos
(August 31, 2020) — The body count is rising as heavily armed members of far-right groups are coming out to threaten Black Lives Matter protesters—but some police show every sign of welcoming the vigilantes, while Donald Trump’s Twitter feed is basically one incitement after another. After all, Black Lives Matter protesters dare to criticize police for racism and brutality, while the far right is out there supporting things like the police shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back.
Last week, Kenosha, Wisconsin, police failed to arrest 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse after he shot three people at a Black Lives Matter protest, killing two of them. Even more disturbing, shortly before the shooting, police were recorded telling the group Rittenhouse was in: “We appreciate you guys. We really do” and offering them bottles of water. That’s not an isolated incident of police encouraging vigilantes.
In some places it’s been individual police expressing their support, as in Hood County, Texas, where an elected constable and member of the far-right paramilitary group Oath Keepers called on that group to “provide security” for a Dallas hair salon.
In other places, it’s appeared to go up the chain of command, as in Salem, Oregon, where a police officer gave armed white men the heads up that they should stay inside for a while so police wouldn’t feel obliged to arrest them for breaking curfew.
“My command wanted me to come talk to you guys and request that you discreetly remain inside the buildings or in your vehicles, somewhere where it’s not a violation,” the officer was recorded saying. “So we don’t look like we’re playing favorites.”
In other places, like Snohomish, Washington, it’s been the police chief right out in public. Snohomish’s police chief welcomed far-right vigilantes to town, including one with a Confederate flag, because of fake rumors about an impending antifa invasion. That police chief is now out of a job, but as part of a pattern of so-called law enforcement welcoming lawbreakers if they’re white and far-right, it’s disturbing.
It’s telling that police—and, in some other cases, local officials—see people who are threatening violence as allies if they’re there to oppose anti-racism protests. This once again tells us so much about who U.S. law enforcement and the criminal justice system are there to protect and who they’re there to control and keep down. And at this moment in time, the occupant of the White House is eagerly encouraging both that aspect of the official system and the armed vigilantes there to cheer it on.
Trump spent his weekend raging on Twitter, repeatedly assailing Portland, Oregon Mayor Ted Wheeler for resisting federal forces (of the kind that recently spent time pulling people off the street into unmarked vans) after a member of a far-right group was shot and killed as armed Trump supporters caravan’d through the city.
Trump also liked a tweet supporting Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who killed two people in Kenosha, and he retweeted a conspiracy theory from One America News about recent protests, claiming it “appears this coup attempt is led by a well funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.” For this and so many other reasons, Trump is responsible for the violence on his watch.
”Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President, why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence?” Wheeler said. “It’s you who have created the hate and the division. It’s you who have not found the way to say the names of Black people killed by police officers even as people in law enforcement have. And it’s you who claimed that white supremacists are good people.”
Which Trump still believes, as he makes more clear every day.
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