VSIt was to be a symbolic outing, a signal intended to reassure the country and the world. Barely 300 meters separate the White House from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington. You just have to cross the Lafayette square, well known to tourists, who are used to taking pictures by hoping to see a silhouette behind the curtains. But the ride is far from pleasant in these troubled times. Tear gas, rubber bullets: the police were forced to use great means to clear the way and allow Donald Trump to pose, bible in hand, in front of the church of American presidents
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It is approximately 6.30 p.m. on Monday 1 er June, in Washington, the curfew is only expected in half an hour. No one expects such an exit. A few minutes earlier, the American president spoke publicly for the first time since the start of the movement. An address in the Rose Garden of the White House, during which he announced the deployment of thousands of soldiers in the federal capital to face the “Professional anarchists”. The speech ends, the demonstrators prepare to spend a new evening on the square. For the past two nights, the fires they have lit there have been reflected in the windows of the White House, and the smoke from them rises higher than the top of the Washington Monument. Suddenly, the National Guard launches the charge. Taken by surprise, the demonstrators scurry in all directions. The tactics paid off: a few minutes later, Donald Trump theatrically went out, crossed the newly emptied Lafayette Square, and posed in front of St. John. He wanted to go to this church, whose basement was burnt down the day before during the clashes. The firefighters managed to put out the fire before it did too much damage. Fortunately, because the place has been highly symbolic since President James Madison got into the habit of going to pray there. A “Very, very special place”, as Trump calls it by posing for the photographers. Since 1816, whether America is at peace or at war, presidents have been obliged to go there.
The history of the country is filled with troubled periods, but never since 1968 the United States had been the scene of such riots. In a few days, the death of George Floyd became a subject of national and even global indignation. Trump bombs chest and promises to bring back quickly “Order and the law”. But, at least once since the start of the unrest, the protection service agents were forced to take him to the secure bunker located under his residence.
Strong way. A few minutes before the dispersal of the Lafayette Square rally, Jenifer Gamber, a 54-year-old pastor, was distributing on the place de “Water and prayers”. She wishes to show solidarity with the demonstrators: “I think racism has been part of the fabric of the United States for decades. That is enough. I think many of us have reached saturation point today. “ She encourages Americans to vote in the next presidential election and, without quoting Donald Trump, denounces the “Lack of leadership” in this crisis. The same goes for Mariann Budde, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington who oversees St. John’s Church. She entrusts to Washington Post not to have been warned of the president’s arrival and do not enjoy seeing his church “Used” by this one. “Everything he says and does leads to violence in the country. ”
Because the scenes of confrontations go far beyond the federal capital. They started in Minneapolis, as soon as the video of the white policeman pressing his knee on the neck of George Floyd for long minutes began to circulate on social networks. During a rally last weekend in the big city of Minnesota, the demonstrators demanded much more than the indictment of all the police officers who participated in the arrest. “It has been going on for too long, it is time to change the police, judicial, political system … Says Jordan Kinard, a young African American student. At the same time, in the gallery, Bruce Nestor, an activist lawyer, harangues the crowd: “We are fed up with being hammered at restoring order. We don’t need to restore order. We need to create a new order. “
According to figures from the Mapping Violence Project, an organization that records acts of police violence, the rate of blacks killed by police in Minneapolis is 13 times that of whites. One of the biggest disparities in the country. In 2016, an officer fired point-blank seven times at Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American, during a traffic stop. His partner filmed the scene and posted it on Facebook. The following year, one of his colleagues killed a black woman when she was the one who called the police to report a rape. The death of George Floyd served as the trigger for a long-standing feeling of injustice in the city. The images of a burning city police station have toured the world and recall the tragic events of 1968, when the country caught fire following the assassination of Pastor Martin Luther King.
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Chaos. Same chaos scenes in New York. Stores are looted in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The images of a police car surrounded by demonstrators and rushing away in an attempt to escape have only increased anger. In the midst of this disorder, the mayor, Bill de Blasio, married to an African-American girl whose daughter was arrested on the sidelines of a rally, tries to find the right balance between support for her criticized police department and the listen to the demonstrators. Clashes with police fomented by small groups of agitators “Come to practice acts of violence in an organized and systematic way” using bottles, stones and petrol. About 20% of those arrested since Friday are from outside the city. Among them, three people involved in a Molotov cocktail attack on a NYPD van, the New York police, in Brooklyn. Thugs who start to disturb peaceful demonstrators like Karen Sullivan, crossed in a procession in Union Square, the usual place of rallies in Manhattan. Her eyes are wide open despite the mask that covers almost the whole of her face. This New York teacher says she fears the police but also those who take advantage of the situation to fight it out. “I have seen some here who are not interested in the demonstrations. They are the ones who break the windows to be able to blame us. ”
The thugs, identified by Donald Trump as “antifas”, have become the president’s preferred target. He urged the governors of all states in the country to adopt aggressive tactics against them. “You have to be tougher or you’re going to be overwhelmed. You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. And they will crush you. You will pass for imbeciles! […] You have to arrest people and sue them. “ The strongest way is the method chosen by Trump to try to discredit the Democrats and Joe Biden, accused of laxity. He presents himself as the representative of ” Law and order “. With one idea in mind: to continue praying for four more years in St. John’s Episcopal Church§
JIM LO SCALZO / EPA / MAXPPP – Anadolu Agency via AFP – Zach Boyden-Holmes / The Register / SIPA – Matt Rourke / AP / SIPA – MARK RALSTON / AFP – REX / SIPA