WASHINGTON: The statue of a Confederate General was toppled, burned, and dragged through the streets of Washington DC and one of a Southern soldier was hung in Raleigh, North Carolina, as many Americans expressed fury at the country’s racist past in nationwide venting that exploded on “Juneteeth” (June 19), a day that commemorates the end of slavery.
Amid calls from more radical quarters to even rename cities, schools, and roads named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the country’s Founding Fathers who also happened to be slave owners, President Donald Trump made known his ire at the developments, berating protesters as “anarchists, looters, and other lowlifes” as he headed out to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a rally that liberals see as a gathering of racist white supremacists.
“The DC Police are not doing their job as they watch a statue be ripped down & burn. These people should be immediately arrested. A disgrace to our Country!” Trump fumed on Twitter as the national capital and many other cities went through an orgy of defacement and toppling of statues.
He trained some of his anger at liberal Democrat-voting states and cities where there have been sustained protests following a series of killings of black men by white policemen, including in New York where police had to guard a statue of Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle in Midtown Manhattan as protesters chanted “Bring it down! Bring it down!”
Responding to a spurious claim by some of his followers that activists in Seattle want to rename Washington state as the “Seattle Pacific Autonomous Zone,” Trump said he is waiting to hear from Democrats governing the state whether they want help in “taking back” Seattle.
“Ready to move quickly! Damage to various Democrat run Cities & States, including statue demolition, should not be allowed to happen. Ready to solve problem quickly! Federal Government is Ready, Willing & Able!” Trump tweeted, responding to his followers who are offering a picture of total lawlessness in Democratic strongholds. The Mayor of Seattle has dismissed the alarm and described protests, which are restricted to a few blocks in the city, as a “summer of love.”
….as to whether they want help in taking back Seattle. Ready to move quickly! Damage to various Democrat run Citi… https://t.co/x6NvkYEGRL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 1592620921000
In Washington DC, protesters gathered in parks and plazas near the White House on Friday to celebrate Juneteenth in a festive atmosphere, even as Trump supporters were lining up before the BOK stadium days and hours before Trump’s Saturday night rally.
There is great apprehension in health care circles that the rally, besides re-igniting racial tensions in a city where scores of blacks were lynched by white supremacists decades ago, could result in spreading the coronavirus. Many policy experts, including Trump advisers Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Katherine Brix have advised against holding the rally, but Trump has dismissed the counsel, seeing it as a ploy to stop him from connecting with his base.
Meanwhile in Washington DC, four protesters armed with rope and chains climbed on to the statue Albert Pike, the only confederate icon in a capital and brought it down shortly before midnight on Friday. They set it on fire as the police looked on, triggering another round of Trump pique on Twitter.
Pike was a brigadier general in the Confederate Army that sought to preserve slavery, and many liberal activists see him as a patron of the White supremacist Ku Klux Klan. Protesters across the country have also taken aim at Confederate general Robert Lee, who has many roads and institutions named after him, including a highway that runs into Washington DC from the south.
In the process, activists in San Francisco also brought down a statue of Union General Ulysses Grant, who Lee surrendered too, and who later became the country’s 18th President. Incidentally, Grant travelled to India in 1877-78 after his retirement, the first US President to do so.
The Trump administration’s effort to oust a government attorney of the Southern District in New York who is probing a number of the President’s associates backfired on Friday after he refused to quit saying he will continue his investigations until he is replaced as per rules.
In an extraordinary rebuff to the government that came after Attorney General William Barr announced that US Attorney Geoffrey Berman was resigning, Berman said in a statement: “I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position, to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption.”
In another judicial setback, a federal judge on Saturday denied the Trump administration’s attempt to block the upcoming publication of a book by former national security adviser John Bolton, despite agreeing that “Bolton likely jeopardized national security by disclosing classified information in violation of his nondisclosure agreement obligations.”
The judge said the book had already been widely distributed, and could easily be distributed further on the internet, even if the court said it could not be.