You sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.
Courtesy of New York Magazine:
Last October, Minneapolis Police Union president Bob Kroll appeared at a Trump rally. Clad in his red “Cops for Trump” T-shirt, Kroll (who has been alleged to be affiliated with white supremacists) gloated that the president had unshackled his officers from the restraints imposed by Trump’s predecessor. “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable,” he told the crowd. “The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around, got rid of the Holder-Loretta Lynch regime and decided to start takin— letting the cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.”
We will never know if that unshackling emboldened Derek Chauvin to murder George Floyd. But the line between the relief demanded by Kroll on behalf of Minneapolis police, and the naked assassination committed on camera by one of his officers, is quite direct. The world around us, in which the streets of every major American city are filled with protesters, is the result of Trump granting the wishes of the most retrograde police officers. They are getting what they asked for.
The last few years of the Obama administration were one of the most productive periods of criminal justice reform in American history. The Obama administration changed sentencing guidelines to reduce the disparity in the treatment of drug crimes that had disproportionately harmed black defendants. As part of an effort to inculcate a “guardian, not a warrior” mindset, it restricted the transfer of surplus military equipment to police departments. Most importantly, it formed consent decrees with more than a dozen police departments to force them to change their practices.
These reforms did not root out brutality and racism. They were mild both in form and intent, undertaken with the goal of conciliating police and their communities, believing that enhancing trust would ultimately create safer conditions for police as well as those who fear them. It was the epitome of evolutionary cultural change.
This was the context for Trump’s nightmarish claims in 2016 that cities were being overtaken by bloodshed and carnage. Whatever wisps of data he could cite to support his wild rhetoric, Trump was drawing a picture borrowed from the imaginations of resentful police who experienced Obama’s carefully drawn nudges as intolerable oppression.
He reversed them swiftly. Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, ended the restriction on transferring military equipment to police, reviewed all consent decrees struck by his predecessor, and then restricted their use going forward. “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies,” he insisted.
I was going to start off my comments by saying that I don’t necessarily think you can draw a correlation between Trump’s dismissal of the Obama Administration’s guidelines and the protests we are seeing today, but after some thought, I do not think that was correct.
After all, we have seen a significant rise in racism all over the country, and a shift toward authoritarianism that has reminded many of the fascism of Nazi Germany.
With that context in mind, an uptick in police violence directed at minorities does not only seem likely but also expected.
So yeah, I think that there is absolutely a direct correlation between Trump’s decision to give law enforcement carte blanche and the violent protests that we are witnessing today.
After all, we are living in Trump’s America, and this is what it looks like.
Are you ready to vote yet?