How Trump supporters came to hate the police

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In early August, after agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida, the former president’s allies were quick to vilify the FBI. Although the raid recovered more than a hundred classified documents, at least eighteen of them were labeled “Top Secret”, experts and Republican politicians questioned its legitimacy and denounced the federal agency as a ‘dangerous criminal gang’, ‘wolves’, ‘Gestapo’, ‘KGB’ and ‘the enemy within’. Calls for revenge have spread online. Forty-year-old Trump supporter -two-year-old Ricky Shiffer wrote, “You’re a fool if you think there’s a non-violent solution. Shiffer then attempted to enter an FBI field office in Ohio, wearing a body armor. -bullets, an assault rifle and a nail gun After setting off an alarm, he fled the scene in his vehicle and a high-speed chase ended in a firefight with soldiers from the state, in which Shiffer was killed. Three weeks later, Trump gave a speech in which he qu alified FBI agents as “vicious monsters”.

Given the broad support Republicans have historically enjoyed from law enforcement, their growing hostility toward the FBI may seem paradoxical. Right-wing extremists, however, have always viewed public officials as pernicious antagonists, and so the institutionalization of this mindset should come as no surprise as the GOP embraces the ideas and attitudes of its radical flank. .

Early in the pandemic, as Trump supporters began to rally against lockdowns and other public health measures, much of their rage was directed at law enforcement. On April 30, 2020, heavily armed Tories invaded Michigan’s state capitol, Lansing. Facing the police outside the barred doors of the legislature, they denounced the officers as “traitors” and “dirty rats”. Some Mafia members belonged to the Michigan Liberty Militia, whose founder later told me he created the outfit in 2015, after “seeing what happened with the Bundys.” Cliven Bundy, an elderly Nevada rancher, had declared war on the government when the Bureau of Land Management seized his cattle for refusing to pay overdue pasture fees. After a tense confrontation in which Bundy supporters surrounded law enforcement officers and trained guns on them from nearby hilltops, the Bureau of Land Management released the cattle and withdrew from the region.

Following the Lansing incident, Mike Shirkey, Republican Majority Leader in the Michigan Senate, condemned the protesters as “a bunch of morons” who had used “intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and resentment”. Shirkey seems to have quickly realized, however, that such principled impartiality was no longer tenable in American politics. A few weeks later, at an anti-lockdown rally in Grand Rapids, I saw him publicly praise the Michigan Liberty Militia and assure its members, “We need you now more than ever.

In the weeks that followed, resentment towards law enforcement grew sharply, with anti-lockdowns viewing individual officers as complicit in an oppressive and tyrannical order. “They deserve to wear the Nazi emblem on their sleeves!” a retiree told me about the state police serving a cease and desist order to a barber violating the governor’s suspension of personal care services. “People like me used to fuck you!” a veteran shouted at police handing out citations at a rally in Lansing. “But you are garbage!”

Then, on May 25, 2020, a police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis. I left Michigan to cover the protests and riots that followed, and when I joined the anti-lockdowners I found their stance on law enforcement had undergone a dramatic reversal. In June, I attended a protest outside the capital orchestrated by the Michigan Liberty Militia and a right-wing organization called the American Patriot Council. Ryan Kelley, co-founder of the latter group, walked up the steps and pointed to several officers watching the scene. Not so long ago, I had seen anti-lockdowns furiously berate these same men. “We say thank you for being here,” Kelley told them now. “Thank you for standing up for our communities.”

The about-face reflected a larger pattern of contradiction. Michigan’s original militia was formed, along with a wave of other white paramilitary groups, in 1994 following the government’s failed attempt to arrest survivalist Randy Weaver at his cabin in Ruby Ridge in northern Michigan. Idaho. The deadly siege, less than a year later, of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and the Clinton administration’s subsequent ban on assault weapons reinforced a right-wing narrative that white Christians were attacked. After Waco, the Michigan militia swelled to about seven thousand members. In 1995, on the second anniversary of the Waco Massacre, Timothy McVeigh, a white supremacist who had attended several Michigan militia meetings, detonated a massive truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing one hundred and sixty-eight people. The Michigan militia leaders decamped to Alaska and the organization collapsed. For the next decade and a half, right-wing activists across the United States remained largely inactive. Meanwhile, under President George W. Bush, the federal government enacted unprecedented violations of privacy and other individual rights while the FBI used extraordinarily invasive surveillance and investigative techniques against citizens. law-abiding, largely on the basis of their religion. The reason none of this provoked anti-government extremists was simple: the targets of the hype were Muslims.

Likewise, after the death of George Floyd, conservatives repudiated the nationwide uprising that demanded police reform and accountability, opting instead to “support the blue.” As President Trump and his allies portrayed demands for racial justice as the sinister work of subversives bent on wreaking havoc – just as segregationists had dismissed civil rights activists as communist agitators – supporting blue became analogous to s oppose the left. After my time in Michigan, I spent a month covering anti-fascist protests in Portland, Oregon, where demonstrations against local police were punctuated by clashes with Trump supporters, including members of the Proud. Boys, who posed as allies of law enforcement. However, as the anti-lockdowns had shown in Michigan, this alliance was conditional and tended to crumble whenever laws impinged on conservative priorities. The right rationalized the inconsistency by bestowing the epithet “oath breaker” on any American in uniform who carried out their duties in a way they disliked.

About a month after the 2020 presidential election, at a rally in Washington, DC, I followed hundreds of Trump supporters as they marauded the streets around the White House, assaulting pedestrians, vandalizing black churches and seeking to engage anti-fascists in fistfights. The Metropolitan Police, Park Police and Capitol Police did their best to separate the two parties. Their interference angered Trump supporters, who called the officers “pigs”, “assholes” and “pieces of shit”. Some of the insults were indistinguishable from those shouted by leftists in Portland.

“To hell with your paychecks!”

“Damn the blue!”

“Religious justice will be queen!”

“Fund the police!

Many of those same Trump supporters returned to DC on January 5, 2021, and by then it was clear that law enforcement would no longer be free from their belligerence. Online, Proud Boys made it clear that their days of supporting rookie were over. “Fuck those DC cops,” one commented. “Fuck those cocksuckers. Take them down. You can’t go back to your families.

The next day, I followed thousands down the National Mall after Trump’s incendiary speech from the Ellipse. On the west side of the Capitol, two wide flights of granite steps descended from an outdoor terrace on the third floor. In anticipation of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, huge bleachers had been erected above the steps, with a ten thousand square foot platform built between them; the bleachers had been wrapped in ripstop tarpaulin, creating a sort of monolith that functioned as a rampart. Trump supporters climbed the steps and began cutting the fabric with knives. Officers blocked an opening at the bottom of the stands, but they were outnumbered and obviously intimidated as the crowd pressed against them, screaming insults, pelting them with cans and bottles. Some people shoved and punched officers; others linked their arms and dug their backs into a row of riot shields, their eyes closed against pepper spray blasts. A few Trump supporters have used their own chemical agents against the police. The stone slabs underfoot were stained with blood. “You are a bunch of oath breakers!” a man walking along the police line barked through a megaphone. “You are traitors to the country!

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