View From the U.K.: Trump Is Worsening Social Unrest
LONDON — As scores of American cities are convulsed by protests, riots and looting sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, newspapers and columnists in the United Kingdom are reacting with horror and revulsion. And a common thread running through all their editorials and opinion pieces is that President Donald Trump is making matters worse with his words and deeds.
Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died while being arrested. A phone video recorded by a witness shows him dying after arresting police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin has since been charged with third-degree murder.
Floyd’s death is the latest in a number of high-profile incidents in the United States involving the needless deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers. The long history of oppressive police tactics against African Americans spawned the Black Lives Matter movement seven years.
That point is raised in an editorial in the Guardian newspaper, which lists several of the other cases. “It is the United States’ great misfortune at such a time to be led by a president who sows division as a matter of political strategy,” the center-left paper writes. It goes on to say there’s a danger that Trump will double down on the “authoritarian undertones” of his inauguration speech in 2017, when he promised to stamp out the then-nonexistent “American carnage” in U.S. cities. “Americans must hope that the protesters of recent days do not respond in kind to any such provocations. The Atlanta rapper Killer Mike has urged those marching across the U.S. to take on prosecutors, mayoral offices, police chiefs and deputy chiefs in the voting booth …”
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In the Spectator, a conservative magazine once edited by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, deputy editor Freddy Gray also harkens back to Trump’s inaugural speech, and notes that “three and a half years later, in the early summer of 2020, a bout of heavy riots has broken out, like a virus spreading, in cities across America … maybe that American carnage is just beginning. We’ve seen plenty of riots in America in the last few decades. But this latest unrest, coming as it does in the middle of an ongoing global health crisis and a concomitant economic recession, feels more devastating. America is sick and its immune system is failing: a healthy society would turn on the rioters and unit against them. But in large parts of America, especially urban America, the majority really believe that Trump is a white supremacist.”
Piers Morgan, a controversial TV personality and erstwhile Trump friend, in his column in the right-leaning Daily Mail, gives a lengthy, vivid description of the video capturing Floyd’s death. “I can’t get the horrifying imagery out of my head,” Morgan writes, and then later adds: “But my God, I understand the rage of the protesters.” Later he writes: “This is a wake-up moment for all of us. Yet, the only person who could most powerfully effect change is doing the complete opposite. President Trump had one job to do after this terrible killing – and that was to heal the raging wounds of fellow Americans. Instead, as America burned, Trump poured fuel onto the fire.” Morgan compares Trump to the ancient Roman emperor Nero, who in legend literally fiddled as Rome burned.
The Financial Times, in an editorial, notes that Floyd’s murder “has brought even more attention to the racial inequality and economic bifurcation in the U.S. — and the ways in which they are inexorably linked — which the COVID-19 pandemic had already laid bare.” Trump, the Times writes, “has tried to capitalize on the sense that public law and order is in danger, stoking further anger and the potential for more violence. While some politicians, most notably New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have emphasized unity, Mr. Trump is trying to craft a divisive narrative of random, violent protesters at war with good cops. Americans should not buy it.