On Monday, cops attacked peaceful demonstrators outside the White House just to clear a path for President Donald Trump to hold a bizarre photo op at a local church. The incident unfolded amidst days of intense national unrest that exploded following the police murder of a black man named George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the demonstrations have focused on broader problems of socially-embedded racism in the United States. That racism has led to the deaths of a staggeringly long list of black Americans at cops’ hands. Where was Trump’s priority early Tuesday? He was focused upon staging a photo op at a Catholic place of prayer in D.C., where he was caught on camera apparently asking First Lady Melania Trump to smile for the camera.
Trump asks Melania to smile during today's photo op. pic.twitter.com/B59YeDHKRM
— The Recount (@therecount) June 2, 2020
Outside of the context of this latest bizarre display from the president and First Lady, Trump attracted steep criticism for ever trying to use local churches and religious sites for photo ops in the first place.
As the president stopped by the Saint John Paul II Shrine in DC today, Catholics protested nearby and the archbishop of Washington called the visit "baffling and reprehensible." My story: https://t.co/hTYsqHNFn1
— Michael J. O'Loughlin (@MikeOLoughlin) June 2, 2020
Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, for instance — who is the highest-ranking black bishop in the United States — roundly condemned the spectacle, stating:
‘ find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree. Saint Pope John Paul II… certainly would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate them for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship and peace.’
NEW: Just before Pres. Trump arrived at Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, the nation's most senior African American bishop, issued a blistering statement, saying the Shrine was being "misused" by Trump. https://t.co/wjEYGiBMtn pic.twitter.com/ngQNR5t0mB
— ABC News (@ABC) June 2, 2020
The president has so far ignored the substance of the nationwide protests, instead opting to focus on calling for shows of force that “dominate” the demonstrators, many of whom are entirely peaceful and most of whose actions are entirely legal — and who showed up in the first place because of police brutality.
Father James Martin: "I think [Trump's action] makes a mockery of Christianity." pic.twitter.com/F4hcl05E9e
— The Hill (@thehill) June 2, 2020