These days, President Trump’s relationship to the Black community has been limited to meetings with Black athletes and entertainers, and pledges to clamp down on violence and bring law and order to the Black community. Let’s focus on the latter.
There are signs that the U.S. is about to see President Trump’s law and order campaign against the Black community come to fruition. This, as states around the nation prepare to criminalize protest. Earlier this week, Trump took to Twitter to decry the “horrible carnage” in Chicago and threatened to send the feds — presumably federal troops — to the city to crack down on the violence.
If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible “carnage” going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017
Similarly, during his visit to the Congressional Republican retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, Trump reiterated his message of tackling crime in heavily Black cities, this time manufacturing his own set of facts on violence in Philadelphia. Trump said that “to be a rich country, we must also be a safe country. Right now, too many families don’t feel secure. Just look at the 30 largest cities. In the last year alone, the murder rate is increased by an estimated 14 percent,” he said. “Here in Philadelphia, the murder rate has been steady … terribly increasing. And then you look at Chicago. What’s going on in Chicago? I said the other day, ‘What the hell is going on?'”
Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney rebutted Trump, noting that the city’s crime rate is at a 40-year low. “President Trump’s false statements today were an insult to the men and women of the Philadelphia police force, the very same men and women who are working long hours today to ensure his safety,” he said in a statement. “Our homicides are, in fact, slowly declining, and while we are not satisfied with even our current numbers, we are handicapped by Republican refusal to enact any kind of common-sense gun control and by their obsession with turning our police officers into ICE agents, which will prevent immigrants from coming forward to report crimes or provide critical witness statements that can put dangerous criminals behind bars.”
Trump also has threatened to cut federal funds to Philadelphia and other sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with the federal authorities and help turn in undocumented immigrants.
During the campaign, Trump channeled Nixon by invoking a law and order stance, calling for more police in Black communities and a nationwide stop-and-frisk policy. Nixon’s “war on drugs” and tough-on-crime policies were a war on Black people designed to disrupt Black communities. John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, said that by identifying Blacks with heroin and the white anti-war left with marijuana, “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Similarly, Trump and the Republicans are singling out Black people and protesters for police repression, criminalizing Blackness, freedom of speech and political dissent.
Those who are opposed to the Black movement building against police repression have created a false “Blue Lives Matter” that perpetuates the myth that there is a war on law enforcement waged by Black Lives Matter and others, and that to support social protest and racial justice work is to oppose the police. Trump continues to promote that narrative from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., pitting demonstrators against the cops and suggesting expansive federal support for the police.
“A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration,” according to WhiiteHouse.gov. “President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it. Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter or the violent disrupter.”
In this vein, the Fraternal Order of Police, the largest national police organization, endorsed Trump in the election. And now, they plan to cash in their chips. The predominantly white right-wing organization — which is at odds with Black police officers who call for law enforcement reform — has urged Trump to enact a number of retrogressive measures in his first 100 days. These include failing to implement the reforms from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing such as increasing the use of police body cameras across the nation and maintaining a police use-of-force database, cutting federal aid to sanctuary cities and repealing Obamacare. The FOP also wants Trump to reverse the Obama executive orders with regard to background checks for firearms purchases, funding and research on “gun safety” technology and giving the Social Security Administration authority to provide information on the mental health of its beneficiaries.
Further, the police union seeks an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which provides undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors with a two-year deferral period on their deportation. The FOP also wants a federal death penalty for the murder of police officers. And in a thinly veiled reference to Black political prisoner Assata Shakur, the FOP suggests the president “reverse the change in U.S.-Cuba relations, perhaps until such time as the cop killers harbored there are returned.”
The FOP also seeks a reversal of the Bush-era ban on racial profiling by federal agencies. The ban, which covers 70 federal law enforcement agencies, states that for traffic stops and similar matters, federal agents “may not use race or ethnicity to any degree, except that officers may rely on race and ethnicity in a specific suspect description.” For example, a narcotics agent cannot single out a certain neighborhood solely because of its racial makeup, as The New York Times reported. Further, agents involved in car theft or drug investigations are prohibited from targeting individuals or communities based on the “generalized assumption” that people of a certain race are more likely to be car thieves or drug dealers. The policy makes a narrow exemption to use race and ethnicity in cases of national security and terrorism.
Meanwhile, on the local level, 10 Republican-controlled states have introduced legislation to criminalize peaceful protests, according to The Intercept:
*** In Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Washington state, conservative lawmakers are seeking penalties for protesters who block traffic.
*** Indiana Republicans have proposed legislation allowing police to use “any means necessary” to remove demonstrators from the road.
*** North Dakota legislators are promoting a bill that would permit motorists to run over and kill protesters if the collision was “unintentional.”
*** Colorado would reclassify penalties for environmental activists who tamper with oil and gas equipment, turning what is now a misdemeanor into a felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.
*** Missouri legislature would criminalize “concealing a person’s identity if he or she is committing the crime of unlawful assembly … or rioting” and “intentionally conceals his or her identity by the means of a robe, mask or other disguise.”
*** A piece of legislation in Virginia would increase penalties for those who engage in “unlawful assembly” after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” The class 3 misdemeanor, which imposes a $500 fine, would become a class 1 misdemeanor, allowing for up to $2,500 and a year behind bars.
Meanwhile, on Inauguration Day, D.C. police arrested 230 protesters, as The New York Times reported. Among those arrested were six journalists who were charged with felony rioting. The journalists face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine if they are convicted, according to The Guardian.
As President Trump works overtime to bring a reign of police terror to Black communities in the guise of “law and order,” the states are doing their part to criminalize protest movements. So, when Trump says that he wants to “send in the Feds,” that can mean any number of things — none of them good.