“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Vice President Mike Pence said just last week during the 2020 Republican National Convention. Now we are collecting body counts and Trump has clearly chosen sides.
Trump tweeted an RIP message for the presumed Patriot Prayer member shot and killed on Saturday night in Portland. But the president is certainly not planning to visit Kenosha on Tuesday to offer any such sympathy or condolences for Jacob Blake, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum. He cannot run on his record, so count on him to stir up as much chaos as he can. As Kellyanne Conway said heading into the weekend, “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is….”
“Do you seriously wonder, Mr. President,” Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler asked, “why this is the first time in decades that America has seen this level of violence? It’s you who have created the hate and the division. It’s you who have not found a way to say the names of Black people killed by police officers even as people in law enforcement have. And it’s you who claimed that White supremacists are good people,” he continued. “Your campaign of fear is as anti-democratic as anything you’ve done to create hate and vitriol in our beautiful country.”
Mayor Wheeler wasn’t done, saying “for four years we’ve had to live with you and your racist attacks on Black people. We learned early about your sexist attitudes toward women. We’ve had to endure clips of you mocking a disabled man. We’ve had to listen to your anti-democratic attacks on journalists. We’ve read your tweets slamming private citizens to the point of receiving death threats, and we’ve listened to your attacks on immigrants,” he said. “We’ve listened to you label Mexicans ‘rapists.’ We’ve heard you say that John McCain wasn’t a hero because he was a prisoner of war. And now, you’re attacking Democratic mayors and the very institutions of democracy that have served this nation well since its founding.”
“President Trump, you bring no peace,” Wheeler concluded. “You bring no respect to our democracy. You, Mr. President, need to do your job as the leader of this nation and I, Mr. President, will do my job as the mayor of this city. And we will both be held accountable, as we should.”
“Portland will never recover with a fool for a Mayor,” Trump tweeted in response. “He tried mixing with the Agitators and Anarchists and they mocked him. He would like to blame me and the Federal Government for going in, but he hasn’t seen anything yet. We have only been there with a small group to defend our U.S. Courthouse, because he couldn’t do it. The people of Portland, like all other cities & parts of our great Country, want Law & Order.”
Meanwhile, Trump packed for America’s Dairyland, drawing the attention of the Governor.
“I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together,” Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wrote to Trump. “It is our job as elected officials to lead by example and to be a calming presence for the people we know are hurting, mourning, and trying to cope with trauma. Now is not the time for divisiveness,” the Governor continued. “Now is not the time for elected officials to ignore armed militants and out-of-state instigators who want to contribute to our anguish.”
But after the clashes between protesters and the “Back The Blue” caravan shooting paintballs and pepper spray at protesters from their vehicles, in apparent approval of his supporters taking the law into their own hands, Trump declared that “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer.”
The caravan of about 600 vehicles had gathered at the parking lot of the suburban Clackamas Town Center mall earlier Saturday and motored toward downtown Portland, where protesters tried to stop them by standing in the street and blocking bridges. A story by Politico reported that the caravaners left the downtown area around 8:30 p.m., and officers reported hearing gunshots about fifteen minutes later. The shooting victim had not been identified but the New York Times reported the man was wearing a hat with a Patriot Prayer logo. On Sunday, the leader of the group, Joey Gibson of Vancouver, Washington, and a 2018 candidate for the US Senate, appeared to confirm that the victim was a Patriot Prayer member that he knew named Jay Bishop.
Indeed, earlier this month in Portland, where numerous clashes have become commonplace since Trump’s election between Portland’s Rose City Anti-Fascist Action (Antifa) against right wing groups the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, the Portland Police Bureau’s crowd control liaison Lt. Jeff Niiya was recently cleared of wrongdoing by the city’s Independent Police Review after exchanging texts with Gibson, including real time intelligence. Local Portland newspaper, Willamette Week reported that on December 8, 2017, Niiya texted Gibson about Proud Boys member Tusitala John “Tiny” Toese asking if he had “his court stuff taken care of,” referring to the warrant for Toese’s arrest. The next day, Niiya texted Gibson again, adding “Just make sure he doesn’t do anything which may draw our attention. If he still has the warrant in the system (I don’t run you guys so I don’t personally know) the officers could arrest him. I don’t see a need to arrest on the warrant unless there is a reason.” During the December 23, 2017 protest in Portland, Lt. Niiya texted Gibson, saying “Heads up just told 4–5 black Bloch [sic: black bloc anarchists, often conflated with Antifa] heading your way. One carrying a flag. We will have officers nearby but you may want to think about moving soon if more come.”
Trump later re-tweeted a photo of a man alternately identified as Aaron “Jay” Danielson but also having used the name Jay Bishop and that “He was murdered in Portland by ANTIFA.”
On Sunday, Mayor Wheeler of Portland appealed for public restraint. “For those of you saying on Twitter this morning that you plan to come to Portland to seek retribution, I’m calling on you to stay away.” Wheeler also scolded the president for rhetoric that “encouraged division and stoked violence,” regarding Trump’s Twitter-storm trolling Wheeler to request help from the federal government to restore order. “It’s an aggressive stance. It’s not collaborative,” Wheeler said. “I’d appreciate it if the president would support us or stay the hell out of the way.”
But much like broadly inspiring leadership, restraint is not for Trump. Revisiting Kellyanne Conway’s remarks on Thursday morning, August 27, to Fox & Friends, saying “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.” In that last part, of course, the departing White House advisor was referring to Trump.
Last Wednesday, August 26, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris spoke with the family of Jacob Blake, who remains paralyzed after having been shot seven times in the back in an altercation with Kenosha police. “In the midst of this pain,” Biden said, “the wisest words that I’ve heard spoken so far have come from Julia Jackson, Jacob’s mother. She looked at the damage done in her community and she said this, ‘This doesn’t reflect my son, or my family.’”
“What happened there is so tragic and represents the two systems of justice in America,” Harris added.
This morning, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany ensured the viewers of Fox and Friends that the administration was “efforting” outreach to the Blake family as the family attorney reported that no such effort has been made. “We are efforting outreach, have not been able to connect yet, so tomorrow the plan is so far to go and to meet with law enforcement, to look at some of the damage from the riots,” the press secretary said. “But we are holding his family close to our hearts, and this president, as I said, we’ve efforted outreach and once I have an update, we’ll be sure to get back to you.”
And the Trump administration’s We’ll-See-What-Happens Doctrine rolls on.