United States: Trump lays basis for worsening racist violence

A protest outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 30.

A white man in Jefferson, Kentucky, shot and killed two African Americans at a grocery store on October 24. Gregory Bush was seen trying unsuccessfully to break down the doors to a predominantly Black church before he turned his attention to the store and opened fire.

After the killings he was confronted by an armed bystander, also white, who held him at bay until police arrived. Bush told the man who captured him that they shouldn’t shoot each other, because “whites don’t kill whites”.

Two days later, packages containing bombs were found, addressed to people President Donald Trump has being publicly attacking, such as former president Barack Obama and Trump’s 2016 presidential race opponent Hillary Clinton. Other prominent Trump targets were sent packages, such as CNN, which Trump says leads the pack of media who are “enemies of the people”. More such bombs were discovered in the succeeding days. So far, none have exploded.

The perpetrator, Cesar Sayoc, was tracked down by federal and local authorities in his van in Florida. His van was covered with pro-Trump stickers and right-wing posters. His Facebook page was filled with rage and violent fantasies against LGBTI people, Blacks, other non-whites and Democrats.

Targeting Jews

Then on October 27, Robert Bowers, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and three handguns, entered a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shouting “Kill all Jews!” He opened fire on the worshippers gathered for Shabbat services, killing 11 and wounding two others, as well as four police officers who responded to the shooting. It was the worst case of anti-Semitic violence in US history.

Bowers especially targeted the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which was planning a Shabbat service for refugees and immigrants in locations around the country, including Pittsburgh. Before he entered the synagogue, he posted on social media site Gab: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

In another post, he included Muslims among those he said want to slaughter whites.

Trump calls immigrants seeking asylum “invaders” who want to wreak havoc on the US. HIAS supports refugees from Central America seeking asylum in the US, as well as Muslims.

Bowers, although generally supportive of Trump, goes even further than the president, criticising him for “bringing Jews into the White House”.

Racist rage boils over

In just a few days, the world saw the racist rage among a section of whites that has been boiling beneath the surface emerge in this display of violence.

One thing Bush, Sayoc and Bowers have in common is white supremacy and a clear identification with the alt-right on social media. This brings together racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigrant militancy, Islamophobia, misogyny and more in an overall view that all these targeted groups are ganging up to eliminate whites.

The background for this is the open racism and misogyny Trump has spewed since he first announced his campaign for the presidency. He has stepped this up in recent weeks in raucous rallies around the country to get out the Republican vote in the November 6 midterm elections.

Trump denounced anti-Semitism after the synagogue murders. But he gives anti-Semitic dog whistles aimed at his base, which includes white Christian evangelicals who support Israel with the anti-Semitic belief that all Jews should move there from whatever countries (including the US) they live in.

This sector of evangelicals believes this is a necessary condition for Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. In this “End of Times”, Christians will ascend into Heaven and the assembled Jews in Israel will be sent to Hell — unless they convert.

When Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he had two white evangelical preachers give the opening and closing prayers. One of these is especially known, when sermonising on the “End of Times”, to give special emphasis on the fate of the Jews, shouting: “They will all burn in hell!”

The infamous white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, North Carolina last year included a torchlight march whose participants chanted, “Jews Will Not Replace Us”. Trump said there were “good people” among them. 

Code words

During one of his recent rallies, Trump denounced “globalists” and proudly asserted that he is a nationalist. “Globalist” has become an alt-right code word for “international Jewish conspiracy” — just as “cosmopolitan” once did. It goes without saying that “nationalist” means “white nationalist” to Trump’s racist base.

During his election campaign rallies, Trump openly urged his audience to beat up protesters, especially Black Lives Matter supporters. He even referred to “times past” when such Black protesters would be “carried out on a stretcher”, referring to the Jim Crow South that was ended by the civil rights movement.

In a recent rally speech, Trump took up the theme of violence again, praising a Republican congressperson for “body slamming” a reporter. One of Trump’s recurrent themes is that the media —except for pro-Trump outlets like Fox News — are the “enemy of the people”.

His attacks on all Democratic politicians have become especially violent in his recent rallies, which his supporters loudly cheer. One of his major themes is that the Democrats are for “open borders”, while he will seal the Mexico border (but not the one with Canada).

In reality, the Democrats support no such thing. Both parties are guilty of oppressing undocumented migrants and supporting racist immigration laws.

At all his raucous rallies in the past few weeks, his major theme is against immigrants. When the “caravan” of asylum seekers that began in Honduras — in reality a long trek on foot, not vehicles — Trump told associates that it was a blessing. He would use it to rile his base to vote Republican.

Trump raises the spectre of an “invasion” of the US by the caravan. He claims it includes members of the notorious criminal gang known as MS-13, drug dealers, and — to remind his followers that he wants to ban all Muslims from entering — “people from the Mideast”.

He also ridiculously charges that the caravan was organised by Democrats and funded by billionaire George Soros. Soros gives money to liberal causes and some Democrats, which is one reason Trump singles him out. Another is that he is Jewish, and he also defends asylum seekers against Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents. One of Sayoc’s bombs was addressed to Soros.

Soros, who was born in Hungary, set up a university in the Central European country. Hungary’s authoritarian government is led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an open anti-Semite and close friend of Trump. It passed a law that would in effect expel the university from Hungary, forcing Soros to close it down on October 25.

Migrants

Trump vows to keep out all participants in the caravan by force, ignoring the fact that asylum seekers have the right by law to enter the US and turn themselves over to immigration authorities to hear their cases. The Wall Street Journal reports that about 5000 troops will be deployed at the border to stop the caravan, in addition to the Border Patrol agents already there.

All reporters who have travelled to interview people in the caravan, which is now in southern Mexico and won’t reach the border for some time, say it is composed of ordinary people, including families with children. No drug dealers, no MS-13 or other criminals, and no Middle Eastern people.

The bulk are from Honduras. They are fleeing poverty and extreme violence abetted by a right-wing regime installed by a military coup in 2009 organised by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton under the Obama administration. Some Guatemalans have joined the caravan as it passed through, also because of violence and poverty.

All along their trek, the marchers have been well received by the surrounding population, with donations of food and clothing, and messages of support. If it weren’t for the military greeting Trump is preparing for them at the US border, many in the US (if not Trump supporters) would similarly welcome them and support them. Among these supporters would be HIAS.  

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