He’s Making It As Bad As He Can

From The Washington Post and The Guardian:

Shortly before the 7 p.m. curfew went into place and moments before President Trump began speaking at the White House, police fired flash-bang shells, gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters outside of Lafayette Square, and then mounted police pushed through H Street and forced protesters two blocks from the park.

As protesters fled, choking on gas and stunned by rubber bullets, Trump said, “I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting. To end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”

On H Street, members of the National Guard moved up while police squeezed inward, forcing protesters down 16th Street NW, toward I Street. Members of the Guard aimed their guns directly at some protesters on top of the bathroom building at Lafayette Square.

At least one protester was hit and stumbled onto the street. As officials moved the crowd further down 16th Street, some yelled “Walk! Walk!” in attempts to avoid a stampede. In the brief moments of calm, some tried to take a knee. But it was never more than a few minutes before the lines of police would push up again.

As the chaos unfolded across from the White House, Trump said in the Rose Garden, “I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington, D.C. What happened last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property. We are putting everybody on warning, our 7 o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) strongly criticized the move by federal authorities Monday evening to forcefully clear the area around Lafayette Square, which appeared to be done so that President Trump could walk through the park to stand in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was damaged in a small fire on Sunday night.

“I imposed a curfew at 7 pm,” Bowser wrote on Twitter. “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful! DC residents — Go home. Be safe”

Police in the park fired flash-bang explosives into a crowd of protesters on H Street NW, along with tear gas and rubber bullets, and then a mounted line of police pushed through the crowd, forcing them two blocks away from the park.

During an evening address at the White House, Trump made a statement saying that he would used military force if governors and mayors don’t better control the unrest in their cities. He then walked to the church and held up a Bible.

The leaders of the church said they were unaware that the president was using the church for an apparent photo opportunity.

Members of the D.C. Council joined Bowser in criticizing the federal actions.

“These actions are sickening,” Council Member David Grosso (I-At Large) wrote on Twitter. “Protesters are calling for an end to violence by police and the state and the President is throwing gas on the fire by calling them terrorists and sending the military into our city to enforce the mayor’s curfew.”

The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, was seething.

President Trump had just visited St. John’s Episcopal Church, which sits across from the White House. It was a day after a fire was set in the basement of the historic building…

Before heading to the church, where presidents have worshiped since the days of James Madison, Trump gave a speech at the White House emphasizing the importance of law and order.

Federal police officers then used force to clear a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators from the street between the White House and the church, apparently so Trump could make the visit.

“I am outraged,” Budde said in a telephone interview a short time later, pausing between words to emphasize her anger as her voice slightly trembled.

She said she had not been given any notice that Trump would be visiting the church, and did not approve of the manner in which the area was secured for his appearance.

“I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and was not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop,” Budde said.

She excoriated the president for standing in front of the church — its windows boarded up with plywood — holding up a Bible, which Budde said “declares that God is love.”

“Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence,” Budde of the president. “We need moral leadership, and he’s done everything to divide us, and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Trump did not go inside the church. No one associated with St. John’s was present for his visit.

Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist at Clemson University who studies Christian nationalism, said Trump’s appearance in front of the building was an attempt to promote the idea of America as a distinctly Christian nation.

“Going to the church, not going in it, not meeting with any clergy, holding up a Bible, but not quoting any scripture, after an authoritarian speech, was about using the religious symbolism for his ends,” Whitehead said.

Trump, who is not outwardly religious, has used the Bible in the aftermath of tragedy before. After tornadoes ripped through cities in Alabama in 2019, he signed several Bibles for his fans during a visit to the state.

This time, Whitehead said, he used the Bible to support his Rose Garden speech.

“It was a signal to the people that embrace the idea of a Christian nation, that he will defend Christianity in the public sphere,” Whitehead said. “He said he’ll make America safe. That raised the question, for whom? It’s largely for white, mostly Protestant America.”

The head of the Episcopal denomination accused Trump in a statement Monday night of using “a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes.”

“This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“The bible teaches us that ‘God is love.’ Jesus of Nazareth taught, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The prophet Micah taught that the Lord requires us to ‘do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God,’” Curry said, calling on Trump and others in power to be moral.

“For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all,’” Curry wrote.

Following a presidential tradition set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Trump attended a service at St. John’s before his swearing-in ceremony in 2017. He visited the church again that year to mark a national day of prayer for victims of Hurricane Harvey and in 2019 on St. Patrick’s Day.

Budde said she learned he was headed back to the yellow 19th century building on Monday by watching the news.

“No one knew this was happening,” she said. “I don’t want President Trump speaking for St. John’s.”

“We so dissociate ourselves from the messages of this president,” she said. “We hold the teachings of our sacred texts to be so, so grounding to our lives and everything we do, and it is about love of neighbor and sacrificial love and justice.”

Budde said there were around a dozen clergy members at the church and nearby Lafayette Square all day Monday to support the protesters, who had gathered once again to protest the killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man, and demand racial justice.

From Joe Biden:

He’s using the American military against the American people. He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo. For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him. But I mean it when I say this: we can only do it together.