It didn’t take long to clear the placard-waving, chanting crowd from Lafayette Square and neighbouring streets on the first day of June. The small park in Washington DC is close to the White House and just a short walk from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church, better known as “The Church of the Presidents.”
Since the early 1800s, when the church was built, all but one sitting president has attended services at St. John’s or just dropped in to sit quietly and maybe ask for guidance in affairs of state.
And, on June 1st, President Donald Trump needed St. John’s, not for worship or prayer – but simply as a backdrop for what he felt would be an uplifting speech for a nation being ripped apart by dissent.
With a cluster of sycophants, the president strolled the now-empty street. As his ego demanded, he was a few steps ahead of the group until they reached an official St. John’s notice board with an outer wall of the church as background.
He stood for a moment, trying hard to convert a smirky grin into his version of a confident leader’s smile. In his right hand, the president held a book but didn’t open it. His support group shuffled to one side, knowing better than to intrude even peripherally when the king is on camera.
The cameraman capturing this shameful photographic opportunity was filming a rehearsed vanity in praise of Trump. He may also have been shooting the opening of one of the final chapters marking the fall from grace of a once-great nation – the United States of America.
It has never been acknowledged who ordered the small army of police officers, secret service personnel and fully armed National Guard soldiers to charge the crowd in Washington on June 1st. But, charge they did with nightsticks and batons swinging, shields used as battering rams.
Stunned by the ferocity of the charge, the crowd fell back as smoke, tear gas, pepper balls, and a few high-noise density firecrackers burst among them. If protesters fell or were knocked down, other protesters carried them away or tried to drag them from the path of the advancing juggernaut.
When the street was proclaimed safe, and President Trump did his victory stroll to St. John’s Church, his public relations department termed it “a brave walk” with a Winston Churchill look. They have no shame.
Neither does President Trump who laced his mini-speech at St. John’s – and later on Twitter – with a promise of more militant solutions to protest marchers. He was really a man of peace, a law and order man and would settle dissent. The people wanted calm, he said, and he would bring it even if it took trained soldiers to achieve his aims.
Suppression by force of arms is the ultimate solution in his playbook. When the message was delivered outside St. John, the president and his acquiescent ego-chamber strolled back to the well-protected White House.
I leave it to the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, Mariann Budde, to politely comment on the June 1st decision to drive protesters from the streets. The bishop said it was wrong to use tear gas and other weaponry “as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.”
“Antithetical” was a new word to me. The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides this definition: “Being in direct and unequivocal opposition: directly opposite.”