President Trump’s favorite news channel Fox has been caught out falsifying protests in Seattle, giving the distorted impression that the city is overrun by armed anarchists. That conveniently set Trump off on a rant in which he threatened to send in military forces to “take back” the city from “domestic terrorists”.
Trump and hawkish Republican figures have repeatedly toyed with the idea of “sending the troops in” to quell demonstrations that have engulfed the U.S. over the past month since the horrific killing by police officers of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
That has, in turn, led to an outcry that the president is attempting to violate the country’s laws by threatening to deploy federal troops to do policing work which would normally fall under the authority of the individual states. Trump is also accused of inciting violence by fomenting fears over national security, fears which are exaggerated given the generally peaceful nature of protests against police violence and racism.
In a remarkable sign of the constitutionally explosive situation, the Pentagon’s top military commander General Mark Milley recently expressed regret about Trump’s politicization of the nation’s armed forces. Other former military leaders have weighed in similarly. The tensions reflect tacit concerns that Trump is assuming dictatorial powers. Democrat presidential rival Joe Biden got in on the act by making an extraordinary statement in which he said that he was confident the Pentagon would intervene to evict Trump from the White House, if the incumbent tried to defy the electorate in November. Even the public contemplation of such a scenario seems a bizarre acknowledgement of how far things have gone awry in U.S. politics.
That’s why Fox News’ fakery over the Seattle protests takes on an even more sinister aspect. Last week, the Murdoch-owned, pro-Trump channel published photoshopped images of armed protesters purportedly taking over Seattle. It also attributed scenes of burning buildings from previous unrest as if they were unfolding at the same time as the alleged armed insurrectionists.
Seattle, the most populous city in Washington state on the U.S.’ west coast, has seen a significant popular demonstration against police violence, whereby a downtown area has been declared a “cop-free zone”. The city’s police decided to deescalate confrontation that erupted after the killing of Floyd, by unilaterally withdrawing from the precinct. Citizens have formed a “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” (CHAZ). They are calling for “defunding” of the police budget and more spending on social services. The same demand has been made elsewhere by other cities and states.
What the Seattle protest has dramatically shown is that heavy police power is not required for law and order to prevail. Most reports have characterized the Seattle civilian occupation as largely peaceful, multiracial and a manifestation of people power. Where it will lead to and what it will achieve in terms of policing in the future is anybody’s guess right now.
But already the Seattle citizens have won the argument that U.S. policing is out of control in terms of its militarized operation and use of excessive lethal force, especially against African-Americans and other minorities. Some 1,000 people are shot dead every year in the U.S. by police officers.
The counter-narrative put out by Trump and his ilk is that “defunding” means scrapping police forces altogether and leaving the country at the mercy of criminals and anarchists. This fear-mongering paints an apocalyptic meltdown of American society. It is a favorite trope of elites and fascists whose depiction of society is one teetering on barbarian masses running amok, rather than trusting in the democratic cooperation between people to better organize society.
Fox News was forced into making an apology and retraction for its deliberate falsification over events in Seattle after local paper, The Seattle Times, investigated the images. However, that admission did not stop Trump from telling his millions of followers on Twitter that Seattle was being ransacked by “domestic terrorists”.
Addressing the city mayor and state governor, Trump fumed: “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY.”
He may not have specified military force, but the implication is unavoidable. After all, Trump has previously threatened to send in combat troops to end other protests which he has also claimed have been orchestrated by “Antifa” (a loose network of anti-fascist activists).
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan hit back, advising Trump to “go back to your bunker”. She added: “It’s not terrorism. It’s patriotism. We do not need anyone, including the president, to try to sow further divide, further mistrust and misinformation.”
Federal security organizations have found there is negligible involvement of “Antifa” in nationwide protests. The peaceful takeover of Seattle’s Capitol Hill is also not connected to such groups. There have been reports of an armed man appearing to be a protester in the city. Be that as it may, it is nowhere near reflecting the scenario painted by Fox and its most prominent subscriber of an armed insurrection and mob rule.
Irony abounds. Trump has made “fake news” a signature soundbite as if he is the sole victim of it. He also has claimed that his presidency is in danger of falling to a coup plotted by the deep state. But the Seattle episode shows there is no bigger peddler of fake news than Trump and his Fox friends. And if they could get away with it, this White House would be ordering federal troops to round up civilians exercising their democratic right to protest against police violence. Trump is the one sailing close to a fascist coup.
So It’s OK to Erase Soviet Statues, but Not Western Imperialist Ones?
Statues commemorating colonizers, slavers and imperialists are toppling from their pedestals on both sides of the Atlantic in the wake of mass protests over the U.S. police killing of African-American man George Floyd. The surge in anti-racist public anger has widened to target other icons seen as glorifying racism and oppression of other peoples.
In recent days, the U.S. has seen statues dedicated to Christopher Columbus and Confederate leaders taken down or defaced.
The same angry public mood in Belgium, Norway and other European countries is calling for a reckoning with heritage sites that are seen as paying homage to colonialism and slavery. Several statues dedicated to Belgian King Leopold II have been vandalized owing to his legacy of genocide in the African Congo at the end of the 19th century.
The drive to remove these statues has been going on for decades. In 2000, antiwar protests in London targeted the figure of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. It was defaced again last week with the slogan “racist” was daubed under the sculpture of the World War Two leader. The latest epithet refers to Churchill’s infamous racialist bigotry towards Asians and Jews, as well as his gung-ho imperialist predilections.
In August 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, American woman Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist driving a speeding car into a peaceful crowd who were demanding the removal of a statue to Robert E Lee, the Confederate general. Other Southern figures from the Civil War (1861-45) have also been slated for taking down owing to claims that they represent pro-slavery racism.
This movement has been renewed and expanded internationally since the brutal murder of George Floyd by a white cop in Minneapolis on May 25. The police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded for breath. The whole gruesome scene was recorded on the video of a bystander’s phone. Since then protests on both sides of the Atlantic have been calling for an end to racist policing and institutionalized inequality. But there seems to be a watershed moment that has galvanized past protests against numerous racist killings, primarily in the U.S. but also in European countries. The mass demonstrations also seem to have aggregated into calls for addressing wider social and multiracial grievances about economic injustice, poverty, war and the imperialist legacy of Western countries.
A backlash against removing controversial statues and other emblems uses the argument that the action is obliterating history.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has condemned the removal of existing controversial statues. He said:
“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations. They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.”
If a landmark to a slaver or colonizer is removed then how is the history of that epoch discussed, it is contended. However, that may sound like an oblique apology for having such figures displayed in public spaces.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vehemently opposed any removal of Confederate statues. This week he rebuffed proposals to rename contemporary military bases with Confederate titles, such as Fort Bragg, North Carolina, or Fort Hood, Texas.
“It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.”
The president has previously opposed removing statues of Confederate leaders with the following rationale typical of others like Britain’s Johnson who share the view of maintaining the status quo: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments…the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” wrote Trump back in 2017.
Advocates of taking down offending statues say the objects should not be destroyed but rather put in museums where they can be viewed with explanatory historical context of colonialism, imperialism or slavery. That seems a fair compromise.
For people of African descent and others of color, the public veneration of personages and symbols of slavery or colonial conquest is understandably repugnant. Indeed for many people regardless of their skin color, such glorification is also seen as repugnant. It may be an inevitable fact that victors write history. But it is not an inevitable fact that that dubious version of history must prevail in the form of icons adorning public spaces.
British and other Western state wealth was built largely on the backs of colonized peoples around the world. Why should key figures of that genocidal legacy be allowed to stand over public places with pomp and imperial majesty? In Britain, this includes public figures dedicated to Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh, Cecil Rhodes, Sir James Cook and many more.
A notable double standard prevails in the debate. While defenders of such monuments are animated by supposedly preserving history “warts and all”, they have had no such problem about the ransacking of hundreds of Soviet-era statues in EU members Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Since those countries joined NATO and the EU, there has been a systematic erasure of public monuments dedicated to Soviet military leaders and Red Army soldiers. The silence from Washington and Western European capitals is tacit approval for such state-sponsored vandalism. Where is the outcry to “preserve history”?
There is none because the desecration of public Soviet landmarks is part of the toxic revisionist trend about World War Two and the erasure of the historic role of the Red Army in defeating European fascism.
The double standard is all the more appalling because there is no equivalence between Western figures of imperialist war and colonial crimes and the Soviet heroes who liberated Poland and Eastern Europe from the Third Reich’s tyranny.
Taking down Soviet figures is an act of cultural vandalism that is serving a wider geopolitical agenda of hostility towards Russia.
Taking down objectionable figures in Western states is an act of reparation in which these states are forced to account for genocidal histories that have for long been concealed by chauvinistic, supremacist arrogance.
Statues and Power
Strategic Culture Foundation on Jun 19, 2020
Due to the Black Lives Matter protests statues around the world of “racists” are being torn down, but why?
UN Rapporteur Nils Melzer: US Authorities Have ‘No Sense of Reality’ About How Bad Racism Really Is!
goingundergroundRT on Jun 20, 2020
We speak to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. He discusses the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter protests following the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump’s police reforms Executive Order and whether they’re good enough, alleged systemic & cultural racism in the United States, his condemnation of the US for ‘racial terror lynchings’, the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange, the Trump Administration sanctioning the International Criminal Court and more!
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