At a Tuesday Senate hearing that was, on paper at least, geared towards the topic of prison safety in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered a perhaps surprising break with President Donald Trump while discussing the unrest that has erupted following the police murder of a black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Trump and some of his allies have tried — without any apparent evidence — to pin most or all of the blame for the unrest on the “Radical Left” and “Antifa,” although antifa isn’t even a centralized organization — it just means “anti-fascist.” Graham insisted that the problem is not “Antifa” — and pointed to Obama-era policing reforms as a good roadmap for the path ahead.
A Twitter account that tweeted a call to violence and claimed to be representing the position of "Antifa" was in fact created by a known white supremacist group, Twitter said Monday. https://t.co/1wI52nzmED
— KTLA 5 Morning News (@KTLAMorningNews) June 2, 2020
Noting that the original incident in which Floyd was murdered was “outrageous on its face,” Graham added that he thinks it “speaks to a broader issue,” explaining:
‘The answer is pretty obvious. Community policing is the antidote to this, where there’s a sense of community among the police and those who are being policed… As to what’s happening in terms of violence, I think most protesters are out on the street to lend their voice for change. The rioting and looting is not helping the cause at all, and it’s got to come to an end. Antifa: I’m sure there’s a part they play, and we’ll try to figure out how organized this violence is, but I’m old enough to remember 1968, like many of you. Antifa was not around in 1968 that I know of. What happens is… when people get mad and angry, and somebody breaks a window, other people follow in-kind. This is a phenomenon that’s happened for a very long time.’
Never forget these scenes. Every time you think Trump can’t get any worse: https://t.co/741ChcQ6qH
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) June 2, 2020
This perspective is very different from what the president has said. As recently as Tuesday morning, he ranted on Twitter about the supposed “lowlifes” who’ve turned out for protests in places like New York City, and he’s also responded to the rioting by insisting that he would declare Antifa a terrorist organization — although one, it’s not a centralized organization, and two, there’s no law under which he could actually do that.
The word “antifa” is a contraction of anti-fascist, an ideology that few people left of Mussolini oppose. Trump cannot declare antifa a terrorist group because the US has no domestic terrorism law. It's also not an organization, let alone a terrorist one. https://t.co/ymd1QRtdf4
— WIRED (@WIRED) June 2, 2020
He has largely refused to acknowledge the concerns about police brutality that have driven the protests, which have largely been peaceful outside of provocations by police.
Here’s how this scene was viewed live in Australia. One of America’s closest and most dependable allies. Rendered speechless. Just watch. pic.twitter.com/IjOzgs3WYo
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) June 2, 2020
In contrast, Graham did acknowledge the underlying issues. He said:
‘The overwhelming issue for us is after you stop the rioting, which we will, what are you going to do about the problem that led to the protest? I think this committee has a unique opportunity to build on some things that the Obama administration did, and ask ourselves some hard questions.’
Watch his commentary below:
He explained on Tuesday that the Judiciary Committee would be holding a hearing on issues related to the unrest in coming weeks. Trump has yet to announce any kind of policy plan for dealing with the concerns that have driven the protests. Instead, he has staged spectacles like the occasion on Monday when cops attacked peaceful, legal demonstrators just so that he could stage a photo op at a local church without much of anyone around. Trump tried to use the occasion to depict himself as tough — or something. In reality, he’s a coward.
they literally *gassed St. John's priests on church property* so Trump could pose with a Bible. https://t.co/jrJW3rCeGh
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) June 2, 2020