About the US protests
Saeed Okasha, Wednesday 3 Jun 2020
US Democrats are playing with fire in their conspicuous attempts to pin the violence seen in US cities on Trump

President Donald Trump could have done without another crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the murder ofGeorge Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of a white policeman triggered dozens of protests across theUS which burst into violence against the police, their offices and looting and rioting in more than 25 US cities.

The new crisis facing Trump is no different from previous ones his opponents took advantage of to undermine hispositions and decisions, whether on the domestic or international fronts. Floyd’s murder and its repercussions cannot beseparated from the ongoing battle for the presidency in November and who will win the votes of minority groups, sincethe votes of Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos are blocs that are likely to cohesively vote for one candidate and not theother. This is what former president Barack Obama did in the past, and the Democrats are now trying to utilise him inthe Floyd campaign, as the first Black president, to direct African American votes to the Democrats’ most probablecandidate, Joe Biden.

This recent crisis facing Trump raises questions about how various groups, mostly on the Left, manipulate humanrights slogans, to achieve purely political goals inside and outside the US. This contradicts what these groups usuallypromote: democracy and the rule of law as the real guarantors to prevent peaceful protests from descending into violenceand anarchy.

Floyd’s death is an unjustifiable and indefensible crime, but weaponising it for political goals must be scrutinised.

It isillogical that an incident like this, which has occurred thousands of times in the US over the past five years (accordingto statistics published byThe Washington Postafter Floyd’s murder which revealed that more than 4,000 unarmedAmericans were killed by police since 2015), can generate all this violence. Perhaps there is some truth to what Trumpsaid, that there are groups manipulating the situation, not in solidarity with Floyd but for electoral reasons.

The fact thatDemocrats, led by their probable candidate Biden, have not strongly condemned the events is evidence that thisincident is being utilised for political goals.

The political utilisation of Floyd’s murder can be seen from various angles.

First, claims by Trump’s opponents in theDemocrat camp that democracies do not witness peaceful protests descending into violence, and that despoticregimes are the only ones where such events happen. However, reactions to Floyd’s murder negate this incorrectclaim since the US is a country of institutions and the rule of law, and the reaction on the street is no different than that innon-democratic countries.

This obliges us to conclude one of two things: either US democracy is merely procedural andsociety lacks a culture of democracy; or there are those who took advantage of democracy and the passiveness of UScitizens to transform peaceful demonstrations into violence.

Both are correct. Peaceful protests in the beginningdrew doubt over the rule of law and respect for due process. Then protesters were enraged when the prosecution decided tocharge Floyd’s killer with manslaughter. So, where is the culture of respect for the rule of law?
At the same time, we cannot ignore the culture of resenting authority on principle due to the strong impact of anarchistgroups among American youth, and their role in directing events towards violence. These groups, especially Antifa,which Trump directly accuses of instigation, claim they are a resistance movement against fascism around the worldand adopt violence as a means to undermine states and establish self-governing societies.

Here, we can reference prominent German thinker Ulrich Beck, who is an inspiration to anarchist groups around theworld, to explain the methods used by these groups and how they connect to recent events in the US. Beck, who diedin 2015, once stated: “Defence movements for all of civil societyare the lawyers, creative people and judges of values and standards. They disagree and at the same time stimulatelocal and overall awareness, the people’s awareness of these values, the values of truth and justice, by releasing andfuelling popular discontent and anger that overtakes public opinion due to blatant violations of these standards. For thisreason, they focus on isolated cases whether relating to environmental scandals, or the painful life of torture victimsthat shakes the global conscience to its core.”

This is a summary of the ideology of anarchists such as Antifa which Trump promised to ban in the US. They seem tohave adopted Beck’s statement to the letter by using an iterative event that seems isolated but is taken out of context,which is that there are fewer incidents of police killing unarmed people during Trump’s tenure compared to hispredecessor Obama. This incident was used to fuel the protests and transform them into destructive violent acts.

The greater problem is that Trump’s Democratic opponents are only thinking about how to utilise any catastrophe thatstrikes US society to blame Trump, in the hope that this will help them win the White House in November. They do notask themselves how will they act if something similar happens in the future when they are in power. What is the pricethe US will pay for the collusion of Democrats with anarchists, since the latter’s ideology aims to overthrow all authority,whether Trump, the Republicans or anyone else in power?
Biden’s tweets demonstrate how much Democrats underestimate the gravity of events in Minnesota: “This is notabstract: a black reporter was arrested while doing his job this morning, while the white police officer who killedGeorge Floyd remains free. I am glad swift action was taken, but this, to me, says everything.” And: “I will not lift thePresident’s tweet. I will not give him that amplification. But he is calling for violence against American citizens during amoment of pain for so many.

I’m furious, and you should be too.”

These two tweets demonstrate Biden’s intention to embarrass Trump, rather than confront a danger that threatens thesecurity and future of the US if liberals and Democrats in the US are not careful about their tactical alliances with anarchists.

Finally, now that Twitter has entered the fray against Trump, it has revealed the lie about the neutrality of social mediaplatforms, which resulted in Trump beginning a process to legislate what ideas and opinions these platforms canpublish via its members’ accounts.

Democrats may think this will serve them by using the decision to condemn Trumpand accuse him of fighting freedom of publishing and expression which are inherent rights of citizens. But this could beturned against them since the opinions of intellectuals and politicians from across the spectrum, even inside the US,warn against the risk of using social media to spread rumours and launch campaigns inciting violence, and the moralassassination of opponents.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 June, 2020 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly