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US Goes Full Fascist: Trump and The Floyd Protests

Disclaimer:

As an historian, I do not throw around the word fascist lightly. It has a very precise meaning but is so often used to describe anyone to the right of you. I am not using it in that sense. Fascism, as I am using it here, refers to an authoritarian and repressive government using military force to enforce its will domestically.

Background: The Protests Around the Death of George Floyd 

Protests have erupted across America in response to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota. The protests have been largely peaceful, but there has also been some violence, looting and property destruction. The latter is obviously to be condemned, but we cannot ignore the wider systemic issues to which these protests are responding. Consider the following brief list. The blatant use of excessive force by the police. Systemic wealth and income inequality. Political corruption and the government’s pathetic response to COVID-19. Rank corporatism in the government. The death of Mr Floyd may have been the spark for these protests, but the powderkeg has been there for a long time.

What was the response from the police, you may ask? Violence, in a word. Jimmy Dore has covered multiple instances of police violence throughout these protests. The police have become a militarised force who are not to be questioned, just ask them (or maybe not). The issue here is not about responding to the issues the protesters are upset about. This is about maintaining and exercising power and control. The Mayors of many of the towns have backed the actions of the police, despite the violence. This should not surprise anyone: a unified front in response to criticism is a common political trick.

Fascism, USA, Part One: The Framework

In a speech from the White House, President Trump declared that

In recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, rioters, criminals, ANTIFA and others.

He then described acts of violence against the police while omitting any mention of acts of violence by the police. He added this little gem too

These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror.

While the claim about violence being anathema to peaceful protest is true, domestic terror Mr President? Recall his false equivalence of ‘very fine people on both sides’ in reference to Charlottesville and the infamous ‘Jews will not replace us’ clowns? No such claim here. What could it be that is different about this situation? I cannot seem to put my finger on it. Somone will work it out I am sure.

Fascism, USA, Part Two: Martial Law?

He then gets to the point of the speech that is garnering the most attention. Having outlined (in suitably propagandistic terms) the nature of the situation, the President said this

I am taking immediate Presidential action to stop the violence and restore safety and security in America. I am mobilising all available federal resources (civlian and military) to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruciton and arson and to protect the rights of law-abaiding Americans including your Second Amendment Rights

Yes, Mr President, because the protesters were coming for people’s guns. That man is an idiot. He lives in a reality completely of his own creation. But more to the point, mobilising federal troops (that’s what federal military resources means)?

As if this point were not explicit enough, he added this

I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the steps 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

That last clause is decisive: sending the military into states to quell protests. The President has now gone full fascist. To deploy the military against unruly citizens is the height of tyranny. It is the very definition of a dictatorship; the very form of government America claims to oppose.

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, For We Carry Guns, Part One: The First Amendment

The title of this section is a modernisation of a line from the ancient biographer Plutarch in his life of Pompey the Great. It refers to the fact that when you have troops at your command, the law means nothing. Well, I am going to do it anyway. This blatant violation of at least two laws that I can think of off the top of my head must be called out. Trump’s claim to be able to deploy the armed forces against American citizens contravenes many laws (the First Amendment chief among them). Now before anyone tries to strawman me and say that the First Amendment does not protect rioting, I never said it did. But Trump has conflated the issue of rioting with protest broadly defined, which is protected by the ‘beautiful law’ to quote him. The text of the much-vaunted First Amendment says (in full)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Note the word ‘peaceably’ in that quote. It is perfectly legal to assemble (gather and protest) and to petition for redress of grievances (cry out for change in some form). You can, indeed you must, arrest the rioters and criminals and leave the non-violent protesters alone. Trump’s conflation of non-violent, civil protest with the rioters, intentional or otherwise, allows him to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nuance never was his strong suit however, so the precedent is set: protest is bad. Any other rights you would like to curtail, you fascist?

Cease Quoting the Laws to Us, for We Carry Guns, Part Two: Posse Comitatus

Of greater interest than the First Amendment violation, however, (where the hell are you constructionist and states’ rights conservatives?) is the violation of Posse Comitatus. Under this 1878 law, it is illegal for active duty (federal) soldiers to perform law enforcement functions inside US borders. In other words, federal troops cannot be used as a make-shift police force. Note that this only applied to federal troops. The state governors are Commanders in Chief of their respective National Guard regiments and can deploy them to supplement existing law enforcement. The prohibition is on using federal troops for law enforcement purposes inside US borders. The problem is clear enough: state governors have no authority over federal troops.

Trump’s policy of deploying the military to quell the violence (and by extension the protests) by definition means he intends to have the soldiers shoot people. They cannot enforce the law, so what other purpose do they serve? This is truly dangerous and must be opposed with all possible (non-violent) force.

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24 comments

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  1. Phil Pryor

    What could be lower than a Trump? A worm’s willy, an ant’s anus, a bug’s bum, a flea’s fanny, a snake’s sausage?? Cavernously low, a deficient, defective, deluded dickhead of montrous maggoty messiness, the President remains yet to actuate his inner fascist drives…in a nation that fought rebelliously and with terrorism for its version of freedom, why is Trump still walking amongst them, adolfing away?

  2. Awashwithcolour

    The USA is very quickly imploding.
    The USA was founded on slavery of black people.
    Black slaves created untold wealth for white people.
    Some of those people still haven’t got over losing the war!
    That’s why its so racist.
    Jim crow is still existing today. Its just another form of control.
    Capitalism and its form in neoliberalism has failed the people (40 million) who are now out of work, dying in large numbers of tens of thousands from a pandemic, they have no safety nets. They suffer poor health. Poor education. Black people being killed by police is a daily occurrence. Americans die in debt.
    They need to start caring for each other instead of being turned againt each other in a game of us and them.
    They also need to VOTE for representatives who are actually just like them. Not extremely wealthy people who are power hungry politicians.
    Police brutality should never be the norm. And yet it is.
    Trump is a mean, nasty, devisive creep and is a coward to insight violence.
    The language he uses is used to insight hatred.
    Unfortunately some people think he’s been anointed by “god”.
    How ridiculous.
    I read when trump came to power that his grandfather was a nazi and his father was kkk.
    So how that upbringing made him into a facist cockwomble explains so so much.

  3. totaram

    AwashwithcolourJune 2, 2020 at 5:00 pm: “The USA is very quickly imploding.”

    You wish! But it’s only a small beginning. Nothing you can depend upon or cheer as being significant. But I’m sure it helps – possibly. All your other points re valid.

  4. New England Cocky

    The call out for Federal troops is another Trumpery brain fart …..

    The underlying problems in the USA (United States of Apartheid) are long seated and created from the salvery economic base and accompanying attitudes brought from Europe in 1619. The English assisted with supplying West African slaves for labour in the agricultural fields especially the South. Marvellous what an unChristian enslavement can achieve for English savers and American tobacco, cotton and broad acre farmers.

    Nothing has really changed since 1865 saw the North win the Civil war, but maintain the economical pressure on AfroAmericans.

  5. Stephengb

    Sorry but I don’t believe trump has a plan (the GOP may have plan) I don’t think trump realises he is being used.
    He is a classc narcissist and indeed an authoritarian but not a Facist.

    I don’t think he has enough brains to do anything other than react as a narcissist. The erratic nature of his pronouncements only indicate as a person who is intellectually incapapable of reasoned rational thought

  6. Josephus

    There is an AVAAZ petition circulating now. It records the last , desperate pleas of the strangled George.
    I signed in the private name of my grandparents, who were likewise suffocated slowly, and at a similar age.
    Please sign.

  7. Phil

    The people need a change they are sick of winning. Bigly.

  8. andy56

    Its not going away, is it. Trump is stumbling from one mess to another. When will americans call time on this mad era? Will america ever recover? Will america learn?
    Its not a planned fall into fascism, but the trail leading to Trump is on the nose. Until he is officially POTUS no more, he can still leave quite a destructive path.
    Sadly, the Democrats chose the easy path going with Biden instead of Sanders. I am sure those who voted for trump to bring the house down think there is unfinished business. Sanders could have been the turning point, but its not to be.
    Personally, i think there are two possibilities, Trump loses and Biden brings some stability and no outright reforms, just a moderation of tone. Trump wins and kiss USof A goodnight. Four more years of this crap and there wont be much left in the silver cabinet.

  9. James Lawrie

    I think Trump has an out on calling in Federal Troops.
    The 1807 Insurrection Act allows the president to deploy federal troops in case of insurrection, disorder and other things. (Please note that I’m not advocating for Trump but rather I’m merely making a historical-legal point)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insurrection_Act

  10. Socrates.

    They are slimy rats. You can through their strategy so easy.

    The oldest trick in the book; blame the demonstrators or tar the well mannered ones with the angry minority…and why should many of them NOT be angry!!

    The likes of Trump and Morrison are lackeys to the system and too mulish to do anything but die rather than admit mistakes and fix things.

  11. wam

    The culture of the police, armed forces and the LNP is the same in every country. They project violence but are able to blame any violence on something called the ‘LEFT
    Many workers are frightened of losing jobs to the left and will vote against their own best interests and re-elect trump
    The closer the fear incidents are to the election the better. for the fear mongers.
    In my meagre connections with american schooled adults, largely in the services, they are republicans, yes sayers and , incontrovertibly believe in the superiority of the american.way.
    As for biden, the only positives towards his election are his party and his gender.
    ps
    A view:
    nbcnews.com/politics/elections/12-days-stunned-nation-how-hillary-clinton-lost-n794131

  12. Dr Tim Jones

    Hi James 🙂

    I looked up the Insurrection Act 1807 and S 251 states that the legislature of the state (or the governor) needs to ask for such assistance. The President cannot do it sua sponte. Here is the relevant section of the text

    Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into Federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection

    It should also be noted that there is a difference between protest – even violent protest – and ‘insurrection’ which usually refers to the violent overthrow of the government.

    Referring to S 253 (which Trump obliquely referenced in his remarks), what rights protected by the Constitution are people being deprived of by these protesters? Arresting criminals is a job for the police, surely?

    Point is this situation doesn’t seem to refer to an insurrection as the law described it. Unfortunately, there is much legal murkiness here. interesting to see where they go from here.

    Thanks for your comment 🙂

  13. Michael Taylor

    Rachael Maddow’s podcast last night spent a bit of time discussing the Insurrection Act 1807 and legal experts seem to think it’s what Trump might turn to. Yes, a few hurdles to jump over first, but it is not ruled out.

  14. Socrates.

    Anything but face up and deal with the real issues…

  15. Yanta

    …so the precedent is set: protest is bad…

    I fear that this concept has long been a target of all governments, powerful corporations and bankers. Total and complete oppression of the masses such that they do not even have the right to have an independent thought for fear of being disappeared.

    You will recall the [attempted] illegalization of whistle blowers. The silencing of people who speak out. Any attempts to speak up against these corrupt governments has always gone bad for those who trust in their rights and liberties.

    These low life’s have always been spin doctors, making things out to be something completely different to what they are. Inundating us with propaganda and false news. How much of what you read is really true?

    I don’t expect the demonisation of any right thinking person to stop until everyone is robbed of all rights, liberties and freedoms. Where the general population (what’s left of it), are nothing more than pets.

    As they say, “Fear is a great motivator”, and people are quick to be fearful of anything they are told.

    I abhor violence of any form. And how much have we concretely achieved in the last 20 years with peaceful protests? I do not advocate for any form of violence. There has got to be a better way.

  16. Josephus

    two points:
    1 wam most women rulers are more competent and honest than most men leaders are.
    2 This is not an insurrection but a demand for justice. There is filmed evidence also that many of the violent people are agents provocateurs. Plus the police and national guards are more violent , assaulting journalists and teargassing people away so the obscene Trump can hold his Bible. This holy act made one old lady start speaking in tongues apparently- the holy spirit spoke through her. Not Jesus I assume, who was probably a non violent revolutionary himself, not a Zealot.

  17. leefe

    Josephus,
    Thank you for finally pointed out the evidence of damage being instigated by agents provocateur. Most of the protests that have turned violent did so because police began the violence by firing flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters. At least two people have been partially blinded by the use of rubber bullets by police in ways that contravene the strict guidelines for that use.
    As confronting as the rioting and looting are, is it any wonder that people have finally had enough? Authorities and privileged hypocrites insist that protest has to be peaceful, but look at how they lost their collective shit when an athlete (Colin Kaepernik) led a peaceful protest. They were more outraged at one man kneeling on the grass during a song than they have been about another kneeling on someone’s neck long enough to kill him.

  18. Bruce Winchester

    Never let it be forgotten, Awashwithcolour, the USA was founded on slavery of black people AND drugs. All those bright university educated young fellows of the American War of Independence were the sons of wealthy tobacco farmers who resented the English taxes, not on tea, but on their products and who also employed the most unsustainable environment destroying farming practices to maximise output and exported the evil of nicotine addiction to the rest of the world. And the manufacture of muskets was one of their first industries as it didn’t appear likely the English would sell them any more.
    We, Australian colonials, however, just charitably imported reprobates and desperate farmers.

  19. Jack sprat

    42% of US workers are on 15 or less dollars a hour . 70% of US workers earn less than 50 thousand dollars a year . it is no wonder then ,that when there are mass protests in the US , it is accompanied with looting as it is probably the only time most Americans can afford to go shopping .

  20. A Commentator

    The average income in the USA in 2019 was $48,672, or about Aus $70,000.

    I think the above is referring to $US.

    The average house in the USA is Aud $322,000 so there is also a significant difference in cost of living.

    Just pointing out some facts.

  21. Matters Not

    There’s lies, dammed lies and statistics. And then there’s mean, median and mode. Beware the ‘mean’ (average) income in the US when there’s some individuals with very large incomes which can have a somewhat misleading and distorting effect on that (mean) average. More generally – facts, while necessary and essential, are almost infinite in number and their selection and presentation are but a starting point in any discussion.

    Just one article that shows the perils of generalizations – even if it’s a bit dated.

    https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/what-average-income-us/ and another.

    https://datausa.io/profile/geo/united-states

  22. A Commentator

    I using think data is more informative than not using data.

    I was also pointing out that the data in the comment above mine is expressed in US$

    This is also interesting, international comparison of the Gini coefficient, which, despite its shortcomings, is a useful indicator of wealth/income distribution.

    https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/SI.POV.GINI/rankings

    Plenty of what happens in the USA is disappointing and deeply troubling. But despite the opinion of some, not everything they do is wrong.

  23. Zathras

    If you look carefully at some of those protest mobs you may see some people wearing white armbands. They are embedded police officers and the bands are a sign to uniformed police not to touch or arrest them. Whether they also act as agents provocateur is not known.

    Also, now Saddam Hussein isn’t the only leader who gassed his own people.

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