Daniel T. Weaver
While there has been nearly universal condemnation of the murder by a cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis, democrats and liberals have been slow to condemn the violence of rioters, looters and arsonists. When they do condemn, their condemnation is often insipid. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s and Congressman Paul Tonko’s condemnation of violence by rioters and anarchists are examples of too little, too late. They have been more concerned about condemning President Trump than they have been about condemning violence.
Yesterday, June 3, Cuomo tweeted, “The president is calling out the American military against American citizens. He used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church.”
While it is true that the president has said he might use the military to quell riots, calling rioters American citizens is beside the point at the moment. These people are thugs, arsonists, even murderers. It is disingenuous to call them American citizens when there is nothing American or civil about what they are doing.
Non-violent protesters are, on the other hand, doing something very American. And yes protesters were pushed out of Lafayette Park in Washington DC yesterday so that the president could have a photo op. The photo op was a stupid move on Trump’s part. However, the military was not used to move protesters out of the way. Rather it was the United States Park Police. And the park police deny using tear gas. According to the USPP statement, “As many of the protesters became more combative, continued to throw projectiles, and attempted to grab officers’ weapons, officers then employed the use of smoke canisters and pepper balls when protesters did scatter from the area.” The projectiles were bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids.
It should also be noted that the president is well within his powers to call out the military to quell insurrection. There is plenty of precedent for doing so. George Bush deployed the military to help quell the Los Angeles riots in 1992. President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division to protect the civil rights of blacks in Arkansas in 1957. And the Great Emancipator redeployed troops from Gettysburg to put down draft riots in New York City in 1863. In each case, the president used the military against American citizens who were not behaving like American citizens.
On the same day that Cuomo tweeted the above, Paul Tonko condemned the moving of protesters out of Lafayette Park as a “horrifying attack,” yet he cannot bring himself to call the attacks on an older business couple in upstate New York with 2x4s as horrifying. He cannot bring himself to condemn the murder of retired cop David Dorn, a black man murdered by looters in St. Louis. He can condemn Trump for his photo op in front of a burned out church but cannot condemn the people who burned the church.
Yes if Trump did what the media have reported rather than what the park police said, then the removal of people from the park was, as Tonko said, a violation of “the most fundamental of freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, the right to free speech and peaceful assembly.” No matter which version of the event is true however, it is difficult to understand why Tonko cannot unequivocally condemn the looting, rioting, arson, beatings and killings in New York and across the country.
Tonko goes to church regularly, sometimes to two churches on one Sunday, but yesterday he got religion. It looks as bad on him as it does Trump. He and Trump are cafeteria Christians, picking and choosing what they want to believe from the smorgasbord of Christian doctrine. In his Facebook post, Tonko said, “ I encourage President Trump to open the bible he held up as a prop outside the church. In it, he would find a verse from Micah 6:8; “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
My guess is the Lord requires a number of other things, particularly from political leaders. One of those things might be to condemn all violence and to do so without reservation. All Cuomo has done is say rioters are stupid. Stupid is his brother Chris who compared the rioting to the Boston Tea Party. How about calling the looters and rioters what they are, criminals. And Tonko, all he has done is say he doesn’t condone violence. Apparently, he doesn’t condemn it either.