Lots and lots of tongue-clucking in the media over this conference-call lecture today, but not a whole lot of recognition that Donald Trump is correct, at least in terms of riot response. In a video conference today, Trump scolded governors around the country for not acting assertively to stop rioting before it spread, with disastrous results across the country. If they didn’t act with strength soon, Trump threatened, he’d be forced to act instead:
Trump: "I live in Manhattan—what’s going on in Manhattan, I have no idea. New York’s finest…they need to do their jobs. I don’t know what’s happening in Manhattan, but it’s terrible…. So they really spend a lot of time on it but New York’s gonna have to toughen up." pic.twitter.com/uf23SA6yo3
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 1, 2020
“You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks, you have to arrest and try people,” the President told governors in a call from the basement White House Situation Room.
In the conversation, which also included law enforcement and national security officials, Trump also emphasized it was his belief the violence is being brought on by forces from the “radical left”.
“It’s a movement, if you don’t put it down it will get worse and worse,” Trump said. “The only time its successful is when you’re weak and most of you are weak.”
Trump said the “whole world was laughing at Minneapolis over the police station getting burned,” referring to the city where protests began last week after the death of an unarmed black man who was being taken into police custody.
Reportedly, Trump warned that he would “activate” Attorney General William Barr and even the Joint Chiefs to deal with the situation. Earlier, Sen. Tom Cotton urged Trump to use the Insurrection Act of 1807 to take control of the situation in the worst spots, a move last made in 1992 during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. The US Army would make short shrift of Antifa, Cotton argued on Twitter:
Anarchy, rioting, and looting needs to end tonight.
If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let's see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they're facing off with the 101st Airborne Division.
We need to have zero tolerance for this destruction.
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 1, 2020
And, if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters. https://t.co/OnNJmnDrYM
— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 1, 2020
That’s premature at this point, but it does reflect frustration over the lack of firm response to the lawlessness breaking out into the streets. That passivity is what created a vacuum for the 1992 King riots to spread, after police retreated in the wake of the acquittal of the cops involved in the beating. Surrendering ground only encourages anarchists to fill the void with destruction, the success of which feeds on itself and creates momentum for more destruction.
That same passivity allowed the destruction to spread in the Twin Cities as well. Only when the state decided to “toughen up,” in Trump’s words, did the momentum finally start to shift towards order. The Star Tribune took note of that this morning as well:
Thousands of Minnesota National Guard members and law enforcement officers from all over the state swarmed the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul as night fell Saturday, quelling some of the unrest that had destabilized the state’s two largest cities for several days.
They were on foot and in police cruisers, military Humvees and helicopters, fanning out to try to disperse crowds, to stop looting and violence before it began across both cities. They used tear gas and projectiles and handed out curfew violations instead of waiting to contain unrest. …
Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said officers, working under the orders of the governor, were trying to function in “a dynamic, dangerous situation,” wearing heavy gear and helmets, with bottles of gas or urine and other things being thrown at them.
“These aren’t particularly pretty actions that we take,” Langer said.
That appeared to be much more effective last night than on Saturday evening, where violence continued in spots. After several days of retreats and tearful pleas alone, it will likely take several days of robust enforcement and dispersal to re-establish proper order and governance. Without it, it’s impossible to take control of streets rife with riots and looting. That leaves the law-abiding citizenry wondering where their legitimate government has gone, and deciding whether or not to take matters into their own hands — which will create a whole new level of urban warfare.
There’s nothing at all remarkable about this advice. The basic function of government is to protect its citizens from threats to peace and safety, and to use the authority and power granted to it to accomplish that task ASAP. We learned all this again in 1992, and yet no one appears to have the political willpower to put those lessons into place. Don’t blame Trump for pointing out the obvious, especially when his advice literally just got proven correct in Minnesota over the last 24 hours.