The spreading unrest in the US showed that the US political system is not immune to social instability. Some people began using the hashtag #AmericanSpring on Twitter, comparing the social movement Arab Spring with the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd. Some also raised the question: Is a color revolution taking place in the US?
On 01 June 2020, at least 715 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in the capital area, initially stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and Fort Belvoir in Virginia. Two more 82nd Airborne battalions, totaling 1,300 soldiers, remained on standby at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The plan is named Operation Themis.
Themis (Greek: “Order”) was the ancient Greek Titan-goddess of divine law and order--the traditional rules of conduct first established by the gods. In Homer the word "themis" occurs both in the singular and in the plural (themistes), with the sense of “custom,” “unwritten law.” But even in Homer, Themis is also spoken of as a goddess who, at the command of Zeus, calls the gods to an assembly and summons or disperses the assemblies of men. But after all she is a thin abstraction, a faint shadow, by the side of the full-blooded gods of Olympus. Hesiod furnished her with a pedigree (making her the daughter of Sky and Earth). In modern writers Themis sometimes stands as a personification of law and justice — an idea much more abstract and advanced than the original sense of “traditional custom.”
The dramatic escalation came a week after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed when a white police officer knelt on his neck, leading to the worst civil unrest in decades in New York, Los Angeles and dozens of other American cities.
"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," Trump said. He slammed the previous night's unrest in Washington as a "total disgrace" and called on governors to "dominate the streets." Denouncing "acts of domestic terror," Trump said "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."
Republican Senator Tom Cotton threatened in a tweet that the US could sent "the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry - whatever it takes to restore order," adding "no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters."
It was the most widespread unrest in the US since 1968, when cities went up in flames over the slaying of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Following the rapid spread of the Minnesota riots across the US, the risk of social disturbance might stimulate the "silent majority" of American voters to choose the leader who represents order, and prompt white and Asian voters to resist the anti-racial discrimination movement.
Donald Trump blamed most of the violence during protests on “Antifa and other radical left-wing groups,” and offered federal military assistance to Minnesota. Trump blamed “ANTIFA-led anarchists” for instigating the chaos. “Other Democrat run Cities and States should look at the total shutdown of Radical Left Anarchists in Minneapolis last night. The National Guard did a great job, and should be used in other States before it is too late!" he said. Trump said the United States will be designating Antifa as a terrorist organization.
“To identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement is using our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF),” Barr said in a statement on 31 May 2020. “The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
US Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) called on the US military to be deployed to American cities to suppress the weeklong riots and uprisings against police violence and anti-black racism. “Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight,” Cotton, the freshman senator from Arkansas, said on Twitter Monday morning. “If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division. We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction.” In a later response, Cotton added, “And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry - whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.” Cotton told Fox “If local law enforcement is overwhelmed, if local politicians will not do their most basic job to protect our citizens, let’s see how these anarchists respond to the 101st Airborne that is on the other side of the street”.
Trump said on 01 June 2020 he was deploying thousands of heavily armed soldiers and law enforcement to stop violence in the U.S. capital and vowed to do the same in other cities if mayors and governors fail to regain control of the streets. "Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled," Trump said. "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."
Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher." Trump said “Most of you are weak ... You have to arrest people.” Trump said “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again... We’re doing it in Washington, DC. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before."
Trump said he was recommending that governors deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets". If governors fail to take action, Trump said he will deploy the US military and “quickly solve the problem for them.” Police fired a series of flash bangs, as well as tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House. Trump then walked out of the White House North Portico to walk through Lafayette Park to visit St. John's Episcopal Church across from the White House.
"If a city or state refuses to take the actions 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.... I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our capital, Washington D.C.. ... 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 wanton destruction of property. We are putting everybody on warning."
Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which allows the use of active-duty troops. The 1807 Insurrection Act has been used several times in US history, including most recetnly by President George H.W. Bush during the 1992 Rodney King Los Angeles Riots. The legislative history behind the Insurrection Act is nonexistent, which is troubling.
The 1861 Suppression of the Rebellion Act of 1861 expressly committed to the President's sole discretion the determination that it was "impracticable" to execute the laws. The Act also added "rebellion against the authority of the Government of the United States" to the instances under which the power to use the militia to "execute the laws" could be invoked. This provision was clearly intended to apply to the Confederacy.
Several US state governors came out against Trump's threat to deploy the armed forces to quell nationwide protests. Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Trump has "repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing and shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office." Inslee, a former presidential candidate, said "Now he uses the most supreme power of the presidency in a desperate attempt to hide his timidity and vapidity... I pray no soldier and no civilian is injured or killed by this reckless fit."
Donald Trump vowed on 01 June 2020 to order a military crackdown on the once-in-a-generation violent protests gripping the US, saying he was sending troops onto the streets of the capital and threatening to deploy soldiers to states unable to regain control. As Trump spoke in the Rose Garden of the White House, live television images showed police firing tear gas to dispel demonstrators in Lafayette Park, across the street.
"Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled," Trump said. "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." Trump spoke to the governors earlier in the day. "You have to dominate," he told them in a private call obtained by Reuters. "If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time – they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks."
Trump's strategy in handling the crisis was increasingly clear - incite and provoke the protesters to escalate riots so that he could spark the fury among white people, which is his base, to win in November. The damage caused by the rioters to buildings and businesses has interrupted the country's economic resumption plan, and the great economic loss from the coronavirus outbreak would worsen if the unrest continues, which is bad news for Trump, because a thriving economy has always been his political asset.
US President Donald Trump could going to further provoke the protesters infuriated by George Floyd's death, so that the riots could become an inflection point of public criticism of Trump. Such a situation would require immediate and effective action to curb the chaotic situation, and then Trump would be able to raise his approval ratings by ending the riots by force, observers noted.
Declaring himself "your president of law and order," Trump on 02 June 2020 called violent protests "domestic acts of terror" which law enforcement would "dominate the streets" to quell. "If a city or state refuses to take the actions 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," Trump said. If Trump and his team dressed him up as a symbol of order and "equal opportunity," demonstrating his decisiveness, boldness and ability to act quickly to quell the riots, possibly the riots could then turn into an advantage for Trump.
Even as Trump was speaking in the Rose Garden, police were firing tear gas to dispel protesters in a public park across the street from the White House, images of which were broadcast live on television. The protesters were dispersed using smoke canisters and pepper balls to make way for US President Donald Trump's walk to a historic church for a photo-op awkwardly waving a bible.
Some Republican lawmakers, normally in lockstep with Trump, said he had gone too far in using force to clear the way for his visit to the church. "There is no right to riot, no right to destroy others' property, and no right to throw rocks at police," said Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. "But there is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I'm against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop."
The US Defense Department said about 1,600 military troops have been moved near Washington, DC to help control protests triggered by the death of a black man in police custody. In a statement issued on 02 June 2020, the department said it authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion assigned to the US Army's Immediate Response Force based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A military police battalion from Fort Drum, New York, was also being deployed. The move involved about 1,600 active duty troops. About 2,800 National Guard troops had been deployed in the US capital to help deal with the unrest. The governors of Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware all turned down requests from the Defense Department to deploy National Guard troops to the capital.
Mike Mullen, who served as chief of naval operations, wrote: "Whatever Trump's goal in conducting his visit, he laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces." Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein followed his senior enlisted advisor into the public discussion, issuing a memo to various service commanders that said, "Every American should be outraged that the conduct exhibited by police in Minneapolis can still happen in 2020."
By 03 June 2020, after threatening states that he would dispatch the military to quell protests, Trump appeared to be privately backing off. White House officials said the response to demonstrations across the country indicated that local governments would be able to restore order themselves.
A member of the Defense Science Board resigned in protest. James Miller, a former defense undersecretary for policy, wrote in a Washington Post oped that Esper had violated his oath to defend the Constitution. "You may not have been able to stop President Trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it," wrote James Miller. "Instead, you visibly supported it."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters in a 03 June 2020 morning press conference that "I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act". The law should only be invoked “as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations,” Esper told Pentagon reporters during a press briefing. “We are not in one of those situations now.”
And he expressed regret over his use of the term “battlespace,” in a call with state governors, to describe American streets. “It’s not a phrase focused on people and certainly not on our fellow Americans as some have suggested,” Esper said. He also said he had ordered an investigation into the use of military helicopters to pour rotorwash on people out after curfew in Washington, DC, streets. It was not immediately clear whether this will be a separate investigation from the one that the commander of the DC National Guard previously announced.
US Attorney General William Barr said 04 June 2020 that foreign forces were using the protests to fuel discord in the US. Barr said, "At some demonstrations, there are extremist agitators who are hijacking the protests to pursue their own separate and violent agenda." "We are also seeing foreign actors playing all sides to exacerbate the violence," he said. "Some of the foreign hackers and groups that are associated with foreign governments are focusing in on this particular situation we have here, and trying to exacerbate it in every way they can," Barr said. FBI Director Christopher Wray also spoke at the news conference. He revealed that the FBI is investigating what it calls anarchist extremists who are trying to commit violent, criminal activity and subscribe to an Antifa-like ideology.
Facebook said it had seen no evidence of coordinated foreign interference on its platforms targeting anti-racism protests in the United States, despite assertions from the US attorney general that foreign groups were trying to exacerbate the situation."We have been actively looking and we haven't yet seen foreign interference or domestic coordinated inauthentic behavior targeting these protests," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser on 05 June 2020 requested that President Donald Trump "withdraw all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence" in the nation's capital after the president sent in forces to tackle the protests related to the death of George Floyd. Bowser, a Democrat of African-American descent, wrote in a letter that she has ended the state of emergency in the district related to demonstrations against the death of Floyd, a black man killed last week under the custody of white police in Minneapolis.
The mayor noted that protests in the capital have been "peaceful," and that the Metropolitan Police Department, for the second consecutive night, "did not make a single arrest" the previous night. "I continue to be concerned that unidentified federal personnel patrolling the streets of Washington, D.C. pose both safety and national security risks," Bowser told Trump in the letter, adding that federal law enforcement personnel and equipment "are inflaming demonstrations and adding to the grievances of those who, by and large, are peacefully protesting for change and for reforms to the racist and broken systems that are killing Black Americans."
Former Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, once the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, voiced his opposition to use of active duty military personnel to control demonstrations in the U.S. as Trump wanted. “We have a military to fight our enemies, not our own people”.
Colin Powell, who served as America's top military officer and top diplomat under Republican presidents, accused Trump of drifting from the US constitution. In a scathing indictment of Trump on CNN, Powell denounced the US president as a danger to democracy whose lies and insults have diminished America in the eyes of the world. "We have a constitution. We have to follow that constitution. And the president's drifted away from it," Powell said.
Trump on 07 June 2020 ordered the 5,000 National Guard troops brought to Washington to quell protests to begin to withdraw, saying the national capital was “under perfect control.” Trump said on Twitter “They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!”
An ABC News/Ipsos poll found 06 June 2020 that only 32 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the response to the death of George Floyd. 66% percent disapprove.
Voters by a 2-to-1 margin are more troubled by the actions of police in the killing of George Floyd than by violence at some protests, and an overwhelming majority, 80%, feel that the country is spiraling out of control, according to a 07 June 2020 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The poll also reveals striking partisan divides in how voters view the pair of unfolding national crises, including the unrest sparked by the killing of Floyd, and the coronavirus pandemic.
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