Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday September 2, 2020
Trump Keeps Fanning the Flames
For the second time in a tumultuous week, demonstrations in an American city escalated into gunfire—and death. Clashes between Donald Trump supporters and Black Lives Matter protesters intensified on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, where a man was shot and killed. According to the New York Times, a caravan of several hundred trucks full of Trump supporters headed to downtown Portland, where demonstrators have gathered to protest police violence for more than 90 consecutive nights in response to the May killing of George Floyd. Confrontations between those participating in the pro-Trump rally and those countering it quickly ensued, with the president’s supporters firing paintball guns and pepper spray at people from the beds of their pickup trucks and protesters in the street tossing items back at them.
While police have not released details about the victim or a suspected shooter, the Times’ Mike Baker—who documented the event as it unfolded in a Twitter thread—reported the victim was wearing “a hat with the insignia of Patriot Prayer, a far-right group based in the Portland area that has clashed with protesters in the past.”
In a Sunday morning tweetstorm, the president only ratcheted up tensions by encouraging supporters to travel into cities to engage with Black Lives Matter protests and threatening to again send troops into Portland. He called Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler a “fool” who “has no idea what he is doing” and continued his “LAW & ORDER!!!” pronouncements. “Bring in the National Guard!”, he wrote, reiterating his Friday Twitter threat to remobilize federal agents into the city if Wheeler is unable to quell the chaos. The same day, the mayor firmly rejected the idea of Trump sending federal law enforcement into Portland as he did in July. “You made the situation far worse,” Wheeler wrote in an open letter to the president. “Your offer to repeat that disaster is a cynical attempt to stoke fear and distract us from the real work of our city.”
On Sunday, Trump reposted a video of his supporters unloading paintballs and pepper spray at protesters from their vehicles, calling the behavior “a big backlash” that “cannot be unexpected” under Wheeler’s leadership. The president appeared to approve of his supporters taking matters into their own hands, tweeting, “The people of Portland won’t put up with no safety any longer.”
Trump also encouraged supporters to go into Portland, praising the participants of the MAGA caravan as “GREAT PATRIOTS” less than a week after one of his supporters, Illinois teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and allegedly shot and killed two protesters. The Kenosha protests broke out after a white police officer fired seven bullets last weekend at Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man who is now paralyzed from the waist down. (Continued: Vanity Fair)