After the horrific police killing of George Floyd, protests across the country devolved into deadly riots that have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 22 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black. The left has responded by either denying the existence of the riots — insisting the protests have all been “peaceful” — or straining to blame President Donald Trump for the riots.
As PJ Media’s Victoria Taft reported Tuesday, Mayor Ted Wheeler (D-Portland) strained to blame Trump for the unrest in his city. Trump had claimed to have “quelled” the riots in Portland. Wheeler responded, “The President did not quell it, he escalated it. His heavy-handed tactics led to a serious injury and enflamed an already tense situation.”
Those “heavy-handed tactics” involved sending federal officers to protect Portland’s courthouse, at which antifa militants fired incendiary devices on the Fourth of July. This violence should be met with force, but Wheeler has allowed lawless antifa mobs to overrun his city.
How is any of this Trump’s fault?
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After the death of George Floyd, the president expressed solidarity with the victim’s family and announced that he had launched an FBI investigation into the incident. Americans were united in horror at George Floyd’s death, the president included. But as the riots broke out, many liberals hesitated to condemn them. Trump, however, championed law and order, urging local law enforcement to act. Then liberals acted as though the president was calling for violence against peaceful protesters.
Using this tortured logic, leftists excuse violence as a proportionate response to Trump’s call for law and order.
Two events help explain the left’s attempt to blame Trump for the unrest.
On June 1, law enforcement cleared Lafayette Square just north of the White House, the scene of violent riots the night before — where rioters actually set fire to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. President Donald Trump then walked across the square to stand in front of the church, expressing solidarity with the victims of the riots. He held up a Bible but said no words.
Outraged liberals condemned the president for having the square cleared merely for a photo-op. The president did clear the square shortly before the curfew was to begin. Liberals complain that the president broke up a peaceful protest merely to stroke his own ego — and the incident does look suspect.
Yet the full-throated condemnations of Trump left out any mention of the fire at the church the night before. Whether or not the photo-op was acceptable, it was a response to lawless riots — not the cause of them.
A week later, New York Times opinion editor James Bennet resigned amid outrage over an op-ed he had agreed to publish. In the opinion piece, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) defended the peaceful George Floyd protests but called for the National Guard to put down the violent riots. Responding to Cotton’s op-ed, several Times employees tweeted the message, “Running this puts black [New York Times] staffers in danger.”
Times columnist Jamelle Bouie claimed that in “justify sending the military to use ‘overwhelming force’ against protesters fighting for their fundamental rights, Cotton cites an instance where elected officials used the military to defend Americans *exercising* those rights. It’s perverse.” Yet Cotton did not call for military force against peaceful protesters, he called for military force against lawless rioters who were destroying property and lives.
Cotton specifically made the distinction between peaceful protesters and destructive rioters, condemning “a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters. A majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants.”
Rather than dealing with Cotton’s op-ed on its own terms, Times writers and other activists twisted his words, claiming he wanted the military to quash free speech. Last Friday, a group of Marxist academics and journalists repeated the smear against Cotton’s op-ed, claiming it “called for the use of the nation’s military against its own citizenry for exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Such blatant lies bolster the claim that America is an inherently racist and oppressive country.
When vandals toppled a statue of George Washington in Portland, they spray-painted “1619” on the statue, in a reference to the Times‘s “1619 Project,” which claims America’s true founding came with the arrival of the first black slaves, rather than with the Declaration of Independence. When Claremont’s Charles Kesler wrote in The New York Post, “Call them the 1619 riots,” the project’s founder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, responded (in a since-deleted tweet) that “it would be an honor” to claim responsibility for the destructive riots and the defamation of American Founding Fathers like George Washington.
In a November 9, 1995 op-ed, the 1619 Project founder condemned Christopher Columbus as “no different” from Adolf Hitler and demonized the “white race” as the true “savages” and “bloodsuckers.” She went on to describe “white America’s dream” as “colored America’s nightmare.” Just this week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) expressed a similar sentiment when she called for the “dismantling” of America’s “economy and political system,” in order to root out supposed racist oppression.
According to this perverse logic, the rioters who destroy lives and livelihoods are justified in their attempts to rip up America and replace it with something else. Their violence must be ignored and papered over, and when men like Trump and Cotton are outraged at the death and destruction these riots cause, their calls for law and order can be twisted into an ex post facto rationalization for the destruction.
That’s what Mayor Ted Wheeler provided in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. You see, Trump just must be the true villain behind all of this. Liberals cannot accept the idea that their divisive and anti-American rhetoric could justify so much bloodshed, so they claim it is all Trump’s fault. President Trump becomes the scapegoat for the sins of the rioters.
But Americans can see through this disgusting rationalization. If they see the horror of the riots, if they hear the truth about the “1619 Project,” Americans will not buy the ridiculous idea that Trump is to blame. They will not agree to be the pawns of the Democrats’ protection racket, as PJ Media’s Stephen Green put it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.