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White House Just Keeps Digging for More Bad Excuses for Violence Against Protestors, Huh?

Put the shovel down, guys.

Attorney General William Barr frowns at Donald Trump, sitting in front of him, out of focus.

On Monday, police in Washington used tear gas and other unnecessarily violent means to clear protestors out of the area of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House, shortly before Donald Trump and his sycophants took a stroll over there to awkwardly hold up a bible and take some pictures in front of the church, which had been damaged during protests. The anti-protestor actions were reportedly ordered by Attorney General Bill Barr, who has now become the latest member of the administration to scramble for ridiculous excuses for the inexcusable.

From the start, no one was buying the White House’s spin on the events—their attempt to paint Trump as some kind of brave leader who has … any personal interest in churches, the bible, or religion beyond the voting support they can provide him. Then, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that no tear gas or rubber bullets were used to disperse protestors, despite that being a deliberate obfuscation.

Now, let me take a minute here to address the fact that McEnany was technically correct that rubber bullets were not used, but that doesn’t make her comments any better. If anything, it highlights the effort to split hairs over wording to escape blame rather than engage with the substance of what happened.

As PolitiFact pointed out when fact-checking McEnany, it is absolutely correct to refer to the chemical agents used on protestors as tear gas, though pepper balls, not rubber bullets, were fired at protestors. As they also pointed out, the difference between the two is minimal, especially when police forces around the country have been aiming rubber bullets and the like at protestors’ faces, which is not how they are meant to be used and has shot out protesters’ eyes, not to mention being potentially fatal.

The substance of what happened has not changed: protestors were attacked by police, with excessive force, for no reason. Now, Bill Barr has jumped in, claiming that the protestors were not moved specifically so that Donald Trump could get his photos in, but just because the plan that day was to establish a wider perimeter around the White House. As Anderson Cooper points out, no one is really buying that, either.

Again, while the timing makes it hard to believe there was no connection, whatever the existing plans were, I cannot stress this enough: That doesn’t matter. It’s the difference between rubber bullets and pepper balls all over again. The point remains the same: Nationwide, police are displaying the exact kind of excessive force that is being protested. They’re just proving the point (with mountains of video evidence for us). Frankly, it’s upsetting that this is what it’s taken for many to realize the problem that others—especially people of color—have been fighting against forever.

The protestors were still attacked by police for no reason, and then Donald Trump still walked across where they had been, not caring even a little bit—in fact, actively supporting those measures and worse. His administration fundamentally thinks it’s fine to treat protestors this way as long as it wasn’t specifically to facilitate a photo op—or, at least, they think that will sway voters in a few months.

That (and so, so much more) is why, as Trump visits the state today, Maine paper The Portland Press Herald is calling for his resignation. Meanwhile, Trump himself is out there still not caring about anything but whether he can convince people he’s doing a good job.

On the heels of a jobs report showing millions of jobs gained in May, and a drop in the unemployment rate from 14.7% to 13.3%, rather than the loss of millions more jobs during the pandemic, Trump came out for some public remarks, wherein he suggested those stats make this a “great day” for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police is what set off the current protests in the first place.

Those weren’t his only thoughts on what the jobs data means for racial justice in this country, either.

That’s staggeringly disgusting, and there isn’t and never has been any excuse for what’s going on right now. Yet, that seems to be all the Trump administration has to offer.

They’re not the only ones failing to rise to this moment, either. Washington has “Black Lives Matter” written on the streets in massive letters and a new street sign right by St. John’s church, but their police budget is going up, rather than down, like other agencies. Shows of support don’t mean anything without actual action taken to reduce the role of police in our society.

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Dan is a video game modding hobbyist and secret ninja who lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa Brown, and his dog, Liz Lemon, both of whom are the best.