Yesterday, the nation was treated to the terrifying sight of rifle-toting militiamen storming the Michigan statehouse and occupying it in protest of the governor’s strict quarantine lockdown. The latest in a series of disturbing displays of public defiance against the measures taken to halt the spread of COVID-19, the invasion of the statehouse represented a drastic escalation of astroturfed “protests” that had been previously confined to the steps outside.
Orchestrated behind the scenes by shadowy, billionaire-backed right-wing groups — some even linked to members of the President’s cabinet — yesterday’s fracas was an obvious attempt to intimidate the state government into bending to the will of domestic terrorists and should have been met with the punitive response that their actions demanded.
Instead, they walked home free — and now the President of the United States is publicly demanding that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer negotiates with these psychopaths.
The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2020
It’s very telling to see him use the phrase “very good people” — the same words he used to describe the white supremacists in Charlottesville who murdered progressive activist Heather Heyer. By using those words and calling for negotiation, Trump is implicitly signaling his approval of the forced-reopen movement and applauding the defiance of state authority, setting a deeply dangerous precedent for when he is no longer in office.
if you don’t think this kind of paramilitary cosplay has consequences consider that the reconstruction-era ku klux klan began as paramilitary cosplay that became the real thing once it was clear there were no consequences for violent action.
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) May 1, 2020
We can expect that once Trump is no longer in office, heavily armed protestors will become much more common as the newly disempowered attempt to impose their will on their elected officials — a very real threat to our democracy that must be nipped in the bud before any real violence breaks out.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.