Good Tuesday morning to you. If you’ve been feeling rocked by the avalanche of social, political and economic news over the past 12 days, you are not alone. We are all on a wild roller-coaster ride in this peculiar American cataclysm of Spring 2020.
Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, in which America leads in deaths at over 120,000, and with now 40 million Americans out of work because of that pandemic, came the May 25 death by police of Minneapolis black resident George Floyd, 46.
Captured on video, the slow asphyxiation of Floyd — knee on neck — by police officer Derek Chauvin, witnessed by three other officers, after a routine stop on a matter of a bogus $20 bill, sparked large demonstrations in at least 60 U.S. cities.
A sprinkling of anarchists, vandals and looters mixed in with crowds in some cities, especially New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago and the Los Angeles area, creating images of police cars torched and flaming against the night sky, stores of many sizes broken into and sacked.
Police and National Guard troops responded in many instances by tear-gassing protesters and even spraying them with rubber bullets. No protesters were killed, but many, along with some reporters and camera crews, were injured. The vast majority of protesters, a number lofting “Black Lives Matter” signs, remained peaceful
President Trump and his cabinet kept almost silent in the face of the surging protests and sporadic vandalism, the cost of which ran well past a billion dollars, until several days later. Trump then gave a short address in which he called upon governors to be tougher in cracking down on rioting.
On Monday, June 1, federalized forces mounted on horseback and two military helicopters flying low, creating a fearsome backwash of air, pushed about 1,000 protesters out of an area behind Lafayette Park, some 200 yards from the White House. The riders used rubber bullets and flash-bangs to spur the predominantly white crowd down the street.
This occurred at 6:30 p.m., before that day’s curfew and while Trump, in a short Rose Garden speech, was saying that “I am the ally of all peaceful protesters.”
Then Trump, accompanied by Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and aides, strode across the park and the now-cleared street to a spot outside St. John’s Episcopal Church. There he performed an awkward photo op holding up a black-covered Bible, upside down.
While Franklin Graham, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Cotton and others stood behind Trump’s clearing of the protesters to make way for his photo op, other church and political figures sharply took the president to task.
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of the Washington, D.C., Diocese, accused Trump of using the Bible “as a prop,” and said she was outraged over his appropriating the church for a photo.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, a Republican and co-host of the Congressional Bible Study called Trump’s walk to the church “confrontational” and a “distraction” from national grief over Floyd’s death. Other Republican senators who issued criticisms of Trump were Susan Collins of Maine and Tim Scott of South Carolina.
Perhaps most searingly, retired Defense Secretary (under Trump) Gen. James Mattis wrote in a piece for The Atlantic Monthly that Trump had become “a threat to the U.S. Constitution.”