“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” the speaker said, mimicking the motion of police shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.
“Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” the speaker continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
Cops standing behind the speaker applauded, and some smiled and chuckled when the speaker turned to face them. Others in the audience also cheered and applauded.
Who was at the lectern giving cops a green light to use unnecessary force? Who was encouraging them to be rough with people they arrest? Who suggested it is okay for police to use more force than is reasonably necessary to arrest or gain control of a suspect — something that is irresponsible, unprofessional and illegal?
The speaker was Donald Trump, the president of the United States.
You think some of the cops who are hitting, kicking and kneeling on the necks of black men and women don’t still have Trump’s advice ringing in their ears?
Trump was rebuked by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and law enforcement officials around the country who have been trying to build confidence and trust between cops and the African American community. The Suffolk County Police said on Twitter: “As a department, we do not and will not tolerate roughing up of prisoners.”
That criticism of Trump was as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane.
He was at it again this week.
A few days ago, Trump saw what tens of millions in the country also witnessed via cellphone video: two cops in Buffalo shoving backward a 75-year-old protester, later identified as longtime peace advocate Martin Gugino, who fell and cracked his head on the ground. With Gugino lying motionless, blood seeping from his ear, the officers who pushed him walked away and others kept up their pace.
Gugino’s mistreatment was enough for the Erie County, N.Y., district attorney to charge the officers with felony assault. The officers pleaded not guilty.
The video wasn’t enough, however, to convince the president. “Martin Gugino,” Trump tweeted, “fell harder than was pushed” — whatever in the world that means.
Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Gugino “could be an ANTIFA provocateur.” “Could be a set up?” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s slimy charge rested upon a baseless conspiracy theory.
Trump, however, uses conspiracy theories the way he uses lies: to distract and serve his own twisted purposes. He smeared Gugino because he wanted to protect bad cops.
Trump’s love for the use of force was also revealed this week at a roundtable on policing and race in Dallas. He used the occasion to describe the use of tear gas and other force against protesters in Minneapolis as a “beautiful scene.” As for the National Guard’s moves against the crowd? It was, gushed Trump, “like a knife cutting butter.”
With Trump, it’s all about keeping his law-and-order base happy.
That is the same reason Trump caters to the Old Confederacy. “My administration will not even consider the renaming” of military facilities named for Confederate military figures, Trump declared in a stout defense of Confederate generals who betrayed the United States and fought on behalf of preserving slavery.
He also has a deaf ear or a closed mind when it comes to healing our divided country.
Trump is going to Tulsa next week for a reelection campaign rally. Tulsa is also the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, where a white mob descended on the Oklahoma city’s affluent black Greenwood district, referred to as Black Wall Street, and killed hundreds. The riot started over rumors that a black teenager had sexually assaulted a white woman.
Trump also lands on June 19, or “Juneteenth,” one of the oldest dates of national commemoration for the end of slavery.
Tulsa’s dark, racist history and Juneteenth are events that rest in the heart of the black experience in America. And Trump, the most racist president in modern American history, chooses that locale to feed his narcissism.
But if Trump would revel in the gassing of protesters, and encourage the mistreatment of people in custody, why wouldn’t he celebrate in a place where white supremacy had its most abominable hour?
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.