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Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, is failing to lead during this moment. In fact, he is doing the opposite and leading — he’s creating division, inciting violence, and is offering no plan to address the very real problem of institutionalized racism in this country. His embrace of violence against peaceful protesters is dangerous — we know that we need action at the local level, but we cannot afford to have a president threatening to use military force to crack down on our 1st amendment rights.

We’re also seeing a horrifying trend of police brutality against the protesters demanding an end to police brutality. There are countless examples across the country of police using excessive force against peaceful protesters and Donald Trump is making it worse, not better. Trump has exacerbated the division and racism in our country, he has encouraged violence against peaceful protesters threatening our democracy.

Fuel to the Fire

Trump has done nothing to heal America’s wounds. Rather than condemn the racist violence that launched these protests, he has sown division and incited violence by threatening to have protesters shot and attacked by “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons.” Instead of advocating reforms against police brutality, he has pushed for violent crackdowns and essentially authorized a police state.

Federal law enforcement officers used chemical sprays and rubber bullets on protesters to clear the way for his photo-op.

Trump’s use of the military to crack down on peaceful protests is inappropriate, potentially unlawful, and has been widely denounced by former commanders, including his former secretary of defense James Mattis and the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. Even current military officials have undercut Trump — Secretary of Defense Mark Esper publicly opposed Trump’s threat to use of the Insurrection Act and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley affirmed that Americans have the right to peaceful assembly.

Not His First Time

This is not the first time Trump has incited violence, and he has a history of ignoring civil rights abuses and undermining trust between police and the communities they serve.

  • In 2018, Trump’s DOJ sharply limited the use of consent decrees to curb police abuses and reform abusive police departments.
  • In Trump’s first year in office, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division was “completely inactive” and didn’t open a single new case or issue any new agreements.
  • Trump’s DOJ essentially dismantled a reform program started under President Obama that helped build trust between law enforcement and local communities.
  • As president, Trump has encouraged law enforcement to rough up people who have been arrested and advocated for the return of stop and frisk.
  • Trump’s administration has dismissed police shootings of African Americans as a “local matter” and brushed off concerns that communities live in fear of police.