The ugly reasons Trump cheered cop violence

August 2, 2017

Donald Trump's "rough-them-up" order to police sickened many people--but there are reasons why the White House is promoting the pro-cop backlash, writes brian bean.

APPEARING BEFORE a backdrop of smiling uniformed officers, Donald Trump encouraged the brutalizers in blue to be more abusive and violent toward people they arrest in a speech given at Suffolk County Community College on New York's Long Island.

To rapturous applause and peals of laughter from an audience of cops, Trump turned the green light on full blast for abuse and terror from police already perpetrating an epidemic of violence, especially in poor urban neighborhoods where people of color predominate.

The speech was further evidence that the Trump administration is trying to shore up support from its base by promoting the pro-cop backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement that shined a spotlight on police violence.

The administration's relentless scapegoating of Black and Brown people provides the justification for Trump's expansion of the powers of both local police and federal immigration enforcement. It is essential to continue building an anti-racist resistance that exposes the administration's further moves to unleash the cops to harass and murder.

Trump's scapegoating got a rapturous reaction from an audience of police
Trump's scapegoating got a rapturous reaction from an audience of police

WITH COPS and ICE agents literally providing the backdrop, Trump opened his Long Island speech with a lurid description of the activities of the Mara Salvatrucha (known as MS-13) gang based in El Salvador and other Central American countries.

As Abigail Tracy wrote for Vanity Fair, the speech was designed "to stir up some good old-fashioned suburban panic"--and detract from Trump's political difficulties to boot. Trump spouted off about MS-13 as "animals" who "shouldn't be here." He neglected to mention, of course, that the gang formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and was exported to El Salvador by members expelled from the U.S.

Amid his racist tirade about MS-13, Trump proclaimed that he--unlike other presidents before him--would allow cops to do "their job." Trump made it clear the job description he had in mind: "When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, 'Please don't be too nice.'

"Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody--don't hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?"

Trump also praised the amount of military equipment that has been given away to local forces. "You want to use military equipment, you can do it." He then remarked at how successful this has been and joked that so much heavy weaponry designed for invading foreign countries has been used that "we have none left."

Trump's message to the country's police departments: Be as brutal as you want, we'll give you the tools to do it, and the federal government has your back.

No wonder there was laughter, smiles and applause from the officers in uniform behind Trump as he not only condoned, but outright ordered the behavior that caused the murder of Baltimore's Freddie Gray, for one--who was "thrown into the back of a paddy wagon...rough," and then driven around until his spine was severed.

Trump's rhetoric was so repulsive that a number of police departments felt pressure to renounce it. The Suffolk County Police Department, where Trump spoke, issued a tweet claiming that it does not "tolerate roughing up of prisoners."

But this was an attempt to save face for the department's long record of abuse and misconduct--it is currently under federal oversight for discrimination. One year ago, the previous chief of police, James Burke, was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 46 months in prison for beating and threatening the murder a man who allegedly took a gym bag from Burke's car.

There's no need for the "bad apples" excuse for police brutality when brutality is being recommended from the top--and cheered for by the whole barrel.

WITH CRIME rates, including for homicide, at record lows, why is Trump spewing the mythology of violent crime, "blood-soaked killing fields" in U.S. cities, and the need for more heavily armed cops who operate with even less oversight?

There are three functions worth pointing out.

First, the racist scapegoating that depicts Black and Brown people as criminals racializes poverty, allowing Trump--and not only him, but the rest of the political establishment, including Democrats--to point to more cops as the solution to a desperate social crisis.

Thus, the poverty of Chicago's majority Black neighborhoods becomes something to be remedied, not with jobs and services, but by sending federal law enforcement agents--who wind up ineptly losing their weapons. This can only inflame the social crisis on the South and West Sides of the city that is at the root of gun violence.

Second, by demonizing violent immigrant gang members, Trump justifies the massive increase in ICE raids and deportations, where the real targets are millions of undocumented families who live peacefully and do nothing wrong in the U.S.

Trump's Long Island speech coincides with the announcement of a "surge" in raids nationwide that are specifically targeting teenagers. Among the criteria being used to pick out which teens are "gang affiliated" includes the vague "frequenting an area notorious for gangs and wearing gang apparel."

Last, Trump's comments reflect his connection to the racist Fraternal Order of Police, which backed his presidential campaign. Now in office, he is pushing an agenda that does the FOP's bidding in countering the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement that at its height cast a spotlight on racist police practices.

In particular, the FOP is determined to polish the reputation of police after all the negative attention drawn to their daily terrorism. Their friend in the White House now is willing to fervently police violence, while scaremongering about immigrant gangs and Black-on-Black crime.

Unless it is challenged, the pro-cop backlash championed by Trump will lead to more police killings, like the murders of Charleena Lyles in Seattle, Justine Damon in Minneapolis and, most recently, 16-year-old Aries Clark in Marion, Arkansas--while the ICE raids and deportations continue to devastate immigrant communities.

We have to challenge the racist scapegoating of Black and Brown people for a crisis that isn't caused by them, but nevertheless places them in the gunsights of vicious violence.

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