As small groups of protesters violated stay-at-home and social distancing policies amidst the COVID-19 quarantine, Trump lauded the lawbreakers as freedom fighters.
In a string of tweets, Trump called to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — states where protesters gathered to oppose stay-at-home orders declared by Democratic governors.
Stephen Moore, who is on President Trump’s council tasked with reopening the country, went further and invoked Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks multiple times.
“I call these people the modern-day Rosa Parks,” Moore told The Washington Post. “They are protesting against injustice and a loss of liberties.”
Where Trump’s critics charged that the protester’s behavior was dangerous in spreading COVID-19, Trump saw “responsible” people who have “been treated a little bit rough.”
“These are great people,” Trump said at a news conference. “They’ve got cabin fever. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them.”
Colin Kaepernick also wants his life back after protesting on behalf of those who literally had their lives taken away from them.
His own protests during the anthem at NFL games was first sparked in 2016 by what he called police “getting away with murder.” Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the first two police executions Kaepernick publicly addressed will never get their lives back.
But Trump sang a very different tune in 2017 for Kaepernick and other NFL player protesting the lethal actions taken by officers.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!” said Trump then.
Even by Trumpian standards, the president’s hypocrisy is overwhelming.
Great People” vs Sons of Bitches
Unlike Trump’s lawless “liberators”, Kaepernick’s peaceful protests broke no laws or even NFL rules.
Unlike their behavior which endangered lives, Kaepernick’s protest was to save lives.
Trump’s hypocrisy did not go unnoticed.
There is only one thread of consistency with Trump’s comments: promotion of illegal behavior.
With Kaepernick, Trump lent his support and influence to NFL owners to illegally ban him. Just like 2017, owner collusion is still illegal.
Once again Trump is encouraging people to violate the law, but with far greater at stake.
“The president’s statements encourage illegal and dangerous acts,” tweeted Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington. “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting Covid-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence.”
And with Trump’s Twitter call to gun-toting protesters to “Save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” it’s easy to see how these actions could lead to violence. Inslee wasn’t the only governor to take exception.
“I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage demonstrations and encourage people to go against the president’s own policy,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, referring to Trump acknowledging that it’s up to each governor in determining how they wish to re-open their states.
“These efforts are making a difference in saving lives,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “We’ve got to continue doing that.”
“This is not the time for protests,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on CNN. “This is time for leadership. It’s the time for truth.”
The truth is health experts and the vast majority of Americans agree with the stay-at-home orders, and these are fringe far right-wing protesters organized by fringe far right-wing groups who have already received far too much attention and promotion for their size.
While this column runs the risk of doing the same, the hypocrisy of Trump and his liberate-the-staters should at least shine a renewed light on Kaepernick’s protest.
Kaepernick is still being illegally blackballed by NFL owners, and police are still getting away with murder.
The president and his critics accused Kaepernick of “disrespecting the flag,” but many of these “liberate the state” protesters came with upside-down flags of their own across multiple states. This upside-down flag was also a staple of the right-wing Tea Party Protests, or way to express displeasure against President Obama.
Even before Kaepernick ever protested, the use of the upside down flag was demonized when used by African-American protesters insisting on racial justice. It was a common sight at Ferguson protests after the execution of Mike Brown. At one Rams game, a white man tried to rip the flag away from two Black female protesters.
What Trump and the liberate-the-state protesters show is that from Ferguson to Kaepernick, the issue was never ever about “disrespecting the flag,” but about objections to the racial justice protest itself.
White-wingers can hold upside-down flags, break the law, and endanger lives, but get viewed as patriots. When black people peacefully and legally protest, they are unpatriotic subversive sons of bitches.
And this double-standard has long preceded Donald Trump.
For his part, Kaepernick announced last week he was contributing $100,000 to a coronavirus relief fund that will focus resources to help stop the spread of the virus.
“Black and brown communities are being disproportionately devastated by Covid-19 because of hundreds of years of structural racism,” Kaepernick explains in a video. “That’s why we’ve established the “Know Your Rights” Camp Covid-19 Relief Fund to help address these issues.”
Kaepernick is trying to stop the spread of the virus.
Donald Trump and his liberate-the-state protesters are encouraging its spread.
Now you tell me who the real patriot is?