A Brief Guide To Donald Trump's 'Hypocritical' And Self-Serving Stance On Protesters

The president has threatened a military crackdown on protests over George Floyd's death. But when demonstrators back causes he likes, it's a totally different story.

President Trump last night threatened to stamp out the ongoing protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd using “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers” to “quickly solve the problem”.

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden as crowds gathered in every state of the US in anger at the death of yet another unarmed black man at the hands of police, he said: “Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are 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.

“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”

Immediately afterwards, peaceful protesters near the White House were dispersed using tear gas and rubber bullets so that Trump could pose with a Bible outside a church.

These scenes in what claims to be the world’s leading democracy were condemned by many, with New York governor Andrew Cuomo describing them as “shameful”.

Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK’s Syria campaign manager, told HuffPost UK: “This call for the military is the kind of thing you’d see in a dictatorship.

“Trump’s an authoritarian, there’s no doubt about that, and I think what we saw yesterday were his instincts being given a global platform.

“He’s found his moment to put into practice those authoritarian instincts that he’s long displayed and he’s long-talked about, even before he was president.”

In March 1990, Trump was being interviewed by Playboy magazine when the topic of protests came up. Referring to the Tiananmen Square massacre the year before, in which as many as 10,000 demonstrators were killed by Chinese troops, he said: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.

“That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak, [...] as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

Since making these comments, Trump’s stance on protesters has followed a predictable pattern – if they’re for Trump’s interests they’re good, if they’re against Trump’s interest’s they’re bad.

For instance, earlier this year Trump made an impassioned plea to the leaders of longtime US rival Iran to respect the democratic rights of protesters, saying: “The USA is watching.”

“When it comes to perceived enemies of the US like Iran, it’s hypocrisy and we see this with a lot of politicians particularly on the right,” says Benedict.

Trump has taken a similar stance on the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, encouraging dialogue between China’s leaders and demonstrators – in stark contrast to the current unrest in the US.

Closer to home, in 2011 Trump appeared to have no issue with protesters gathering at the White House when Barack Obama was inside.

And in 2018 during Trump’s hugely controversial appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, those demonstrating in his favour constituted a “beautiful thing to see”.

In contrast, Trump has repeatedly asserted that anyone protesting against him are “paid” or “professional” protesters.

And just last month, Trump appeared to have no problem when white protestors – many armed with semi-automatic weapons – stormed Michigan State House and refused to leave.

How Trump’s view of the current protests affects how he deals with the volatile situation in the US remains to be seen but the violence is escalating with no sign of ending any time soon.

“He has the means at his disposal to put this authoritarian vision he has for the US into practice. It is troubling,” says Benedict.

″People shouldn’t rule it out, I know that might sound outlandish but the US has a long history of supporting brutal authoritarianism and Trump clearly admires authoritarian leaders like Putin and it does seem like he wants to bring that home.

“And it will be upon to others within the US political system and allies including the UK to put some brakes on that and give some wise counsel to make sure this slide into authoritarianism doesn’t go any further.”


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