Anderson Cooper Critiques Trump Harshly for Attack Against Peaceful Protestors

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 2, 2020

Out CNN anchor Anderson Cooper dragged President Trump over the coals during his June 1 edition of "Anderson Cooper 360" for Trump's needless aggression against a group of peaceful protestors in a park near the White House - an attack, Cooper noted, that gave the lie to Trump's claim, uttered at the very same time as the attack was unfolding, that he would be an "ally of all peaceful protestors."

The president sent heavily armed and armored police into a gathering of peaceful protestors who had gathered in Lafayette Park, adjacent to the White House. The police fired rubber bullets, "flash-bang" devices, and tear gas into the crowd in a show of force that may have been "dominant," but was unprovoked and unnecessary.

"Calling himself a 'Law and Order President,' he said he'll send active-duty military troops to American states and cities to 'dominate' - his word - 'dominate' demonstrators in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd a week ago," Cooper reported in his broadcast.

"What happened in this past hour would be comical if it wasn't so dangerous and so destructive," Cooper went on to say.

Video accompanying Cooper's report showed a phalanx of heavily armored police wielding shields and aggressively pushing their way into the midst of the gathering.

"The president spoke from the Rose Garden," Cooper narrated. "Even as he declared himself an 'ally of all peaceful protestors,' troops, secret service members, and mounted police were moving on what had moments before been a peaceful crowd in Lafayette Park, across from the White House," Cooper explained, as the video footage continued to show the scene devolving into violent chaos.

"Throughout his brief remarks, forces of what he called 'law and order' were creating chaos unlike anything seen in Washington in decades," Cooper went on to say.

Trump's remarks, though brief, were fraught. Trump said that he had instructed governors across the country to deploy National Guard troops to quell the uprisings, and added that he had an answer for any governor who refused to do so: Trump would send in U.S. Armed Forced members to "solve the problem for them."

"So, a lot to unpack there," Cooper noted. "The president threatening to use unprecedented military force on U.S. soil while offering a preview of it on the streets of Washington."

The Associated Press offered this account of what transpired in Lafayette Park as Trump was making his address in the Rose Garden:

Moments before 6:30 p.m., just when Trump said he would begin his address, the officers suddenly marched forward, directly confronting the protesters as many held up their hands, saying, "Don't shoot."

Soon, law enforcement officers were aggressively forcing the protesters back, firing tear gas and deploying flashbangs into the crowd to disperse them from the park for seemingly no reason. It was a jarring scene as police in the nation's capital forcefully cleared young men and women gathered legally in a public park on a sunny evening, all of it on live television.

The reason for the attack became obvious a short time later when Trump crossed through the now-cleared park to a nearby Episcopalian church, where he held up a Bible for a photo op.

Before he headed to the church, however, he delivered a few chilling final remarks, the AP reported.

"I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters," he declared, before demanding that governors across the nation deploy the National Guard "in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets." And he warned that, if they refused, he would deploy the United States military "and quickly solve the problem for them."

Standing before the church with the bible in hand, the president offered no prayers or words of solace to a grieving and frightened nation. What he offered instead was a purely Trumpian sound bite.

As the AP reports, Trump said this:

"We have a great country," Trump said. "Greatest country in the world."

He didn't talk about Floyd, the church or the damage it had suffered, or the peaceful protesters police had cleared. He said nothing about the coronavirus pandemic, the parallel crisis that has continued to ravage the nation as Trump campaigns for a second presidential term. And then he invited his attorney general, national security adviser, chief of staff, press secretary and defense secretary — all white — to join him for another round of photos before he walked back across the park to the White House.

At one point, he stopped and pumped his fist in the air at National Guard members in the distance.

"We're going to keep it nice and safe," he said.

His action shocked and angered the Bishop of the Episcopal Church for Washington, D.C., the Right Rev. Mariann Budde.

"He took the symbols sacred to our tradition and stood in front of a house of prayer in full expectation that would be a celebratory moment," Budde told the AP.

Cooper unpacked the images that he was broadcasting of the president and his coterie crossing the street to the church, where Trump held up the bible.

"He claimed a power he doesn't really have," Cooper noted. "He can't send the military into every state - that's not law and order.

"What the president doesn't seem to know or care is that the vast majority of those protesting - they, too, are calling for law and order. A black man killed with four officers holding him down, a knee to the neck for more than eight minutes, nearly three minutes of which he was no longer conscious. That's not law and order; that's murder."

Cooper went on to say:

"The president seems to think that dominating black people, dominating peaceful protestors is 'law and order.' It's not. He called them thugs? Who is the thug here? Hiding in a bunker? Hiding behind a suit? Who is the thug?"

Cooper didn't let Trump off the hook with that, however. The news anchor went on to add:

"People have waited for days for this wannabe wartime president to say something. And this is what he says, and that is what he does."

Cooper then recounted how, in his career as a journalist, he had witnessed the collapse of nations and the devolution of societies into chaos, fed by misinformation and authoritarianism. "We can't let that happen here," Cooper said. "Of course violence is no answer, but people protesting deserve answers, and they haven't gotten them."

Watch the video clip of Cooper's broadcast here.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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