President Donald Trump escalated his shocking rhetoric about Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday, retweeting a call to "leave Democrat cities. Let them rot." the post referred to a video of protesters in New York City, continuing their call for an overhaul to policing this weekend. The divisive message was condemned by people all along the political spectrum.
Trump retweeted Brandon Straka, who is described as "a right-wing activist" in a report by Independent. Straka is known for coining the hashtag "Walk Away" as a call for Democrats to leave the party in support of Trump. The post that Trump retweeted on Saturday was Straka's commentary on a video taken in Times Square on Wednesday night, and showed protesters trying to stop a car from driving into their demonstration. Straka wrote that Democrats "have activated this mental illness and it's going to get more and more people hurt and killed."
I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it, but I checked, and yes, the president of the United States actually RTed this message to “Leave Democrat cities. Let them rot.” pic.twitter.com/1b6yZXhQ2p— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) August 16, 2020
It was not long before journalists, politicians and activists took notice of the retweet, sharing their shock that the president would simply write off what he saw as "Democrat cities." Many wondered how Republicans might have responded if former President Barack Obama had urged Americans to "leave Republican communities" during his term. They argued that this divisive messaging accomplishes nothing.
"How do [GOP] voters living in Democrat-controlled cities feel about the strategy your leader in D.C. just endorsed?" asked author Keith Devlin. Columnist Medhi Hasan added: "If Obama had retweeted someone saying 'leave Republican states. Let them rot' it would have been a multi-week, multi-month political scandal requiring clarifications and apologies from every top Dem. With Trump, it won't even register in *today’s* headlines."
NYC Times Square last night. They are threatening bodily & property damage, limiting the free flow of traffic, unlawfully holding others against their will. If NYC Leadership won’t take action, the citizens will need to defend themselves pic.twitter.com/ER4tEhdb84— Rob O'Donnell (@odonnell_r) August 14, 2020
Black Lives Matter protests continue in cities across the country, stemming from the murder of George Floyd on May 25. Activists are still calling for the abolition of policing as we know it, with overhauls that would make most departments unrecognizable.
A variety of models for post-police abolition community safety structures have been curated by the activist website 8 to Abolition. In general, many of these models include requirements that police live within the communities they serve, and be held accountable for violent encounters they get involved in. They would also take various steps to dismantle the layers of "qualified immunity" that protect officers from legal action when they make mistakes on the job.
Trump continues to make policing a central part of his platform leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Many pundits and activists have called his rhetoric on this subject openly racist, including this weekend's retweet.