Donald Trump’s ‘brown shirts’

See corrections/updates for August 30, 2020, and August 31, 2020; update for September 4, 2020; and note for September 12, 2020, at end of post.


I previously wrote of Pittsburgh,

For me, the over-the-top patriotism of a sort that makes me wonder what the flag-wavers are compensating for, the guns, and the white supremacism are indeed all part of a vicious package, an identity that some whites perceive as under siege. They cling to their flags, their guns, their intolerant form of Christianity, and their whiteness,[1] as they have lost their jobs[2] and live with the decay that is everywhere to be seen (figures 8 through 11). We might call it post-industrial, but post-apocalyptic seems more appropriate.[3]

This was somewhat speculative, but at the cost of human lives, I am being proven right.

We need to add into that mix the unequivocal support for police even as they murder people, especially and disproportionately Black people.[4] I am, if anything, seeing even more of these—I’ve called them “Blue Lives Matter” flags—”Thin Blue Line” flags, even more “We Support Our Police” messages, now not just on yard signs, but on the digital signs in front of businesses.

And it’s clearly not just Pittsburgh.

Ryan Devereaux has a chilling account of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse’s alleged shooting of three racial justice protesters, killing two, at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin,[5] against the police shooting of Jacob Blake.[6] Rittenhouse was among right-wing militia groups that responded in an apparent alliance with police who 1) allowed him to leave the scene, 2) expressed their appreciation for these white supremacist groups’ appearance to counter the Black Lives Matter protesters, and 3) blamed Black Lives Matter protesters—not Rittenhouse who allegedly actually did the shooting, not the right wing militia groups he was a part of—for being shot.[7] (Rittenhouse has now been charged with “first-degree intentional homicide” but only after he had left the state.[8])

Devereaux observes that these militia take their cues from Donald Trump who identifies groups, like Black Lives Matter, like the usually unorganized Antifa, he views as a threat to Amerikkka[9] and has declined to condemn white supremacists in the past,[10] even when as in Kenosha,[11] and now in Portland,[12] they’ve been violent. We may accordingly view these militia groups as Trump’s “brown shirts.” According to an early CNN report,

On Saturday afternoon, a large group of Pro-Trump supporters and cars gathered at the Clackamas [an unincorporated community on the southeast side of Portland] Town Center, according to reporting from CNN affiliate KOIN. Video recorded by KOIN showed pickup trucks with American flags, “Thin Blue Line” flags and Trump 2020 flags prominently displayed on the vehicles.[13]

Their appearance sparked violence and one person (see corrections, August 30, 2020, and August 31, 2020, below) is now dead.[14]

It’s all one big white supremacist package and it’s killing people on behalf of our delusional raging narcissist-in-chief expressly to excuse killing people.


Correction/Update, August 30, 2020: It turns out the shooting victim in Portland may well have been a white supremacist Trump supporter and the shooter may have been among demonstrating Leftists. Further details are sparse[15] but some possibilities come to mind:

  1. This could have been a “false flag” operation in which a white supremacist embedded himself among Leftists and fired at one of his own in an attempt to garner sympathy for the white supremacist cause. Yes, some of them really are this crazy and it’s even conceivable that the victim volunteered to be a martyr.
  2. I have also been seeing on Twitter that as police credibility has evaporated, some Leftists say they are taking up weapons—indeed, some have apparently had them all along. So it’s possible this really was a Leftist shooting at a militia member. It does appear that any violence from the Leftist side may have been provoked by the militia side.[16]
  3. It is possible we will never know the truth. Police have been known to “testilie,” that is, give false testimony. The practice may even be ubiquitous and the incentives for both district attorneys and police generally favor at least complicity if not worse.[17] It does appear police sympathies lie with the militia,[18] so we cannot presume that any law enforcement-led investigation will be impartial. And so we have no way to be assured of the honesty of any law enforcement-led investigation.

Donald Trump is of course seizing on the violence in his “law and order” narrative, praising his supporters.[19]

The original text has been modified accordingly.

Correction/Update, August 31, 2020: Guardian coverage of the Portland shooting includes video of the shooting that seems to suggest it occurred away—I don’t know how far away—from clashes between racial justice protesters and right-wing militia groups.[20] It’s possible this had nothing to do with the protests but, adopting the logic of the Kenosha police chief,[21] we might suggest that had this man not come to Portland to provoke violence with protesters, he might still be alive. I’m just guessing Donald Trump won’t acknowledge that.

This coverage also includes video of militia members driving pickups through protests and pepper-spraying protesters.[22] The driving cars through protesters thing reminds me of the violence in Charlottesville.[23]

Update, September 4, 2020: It appears the shooter in Portland[24] was a Leftist. In a National Public Radio article, he is being cast as possibly having mental health issues. The victim in that shooting has been identified as Aaron Danielson; the suspect, Michael Reinoehl, died in a volley of, according to people nearby, forty to fifty shots, as “four officers from three different jurisdictions fired weapons” when Reinoehl allegedly produced a weapon,[25] raising the specter of suicide by cop, assuming even that he did indeed brandish that weapon.[26]

That cops are poorly prepared to deal with mental health issues is an argument for abolishing or defunding the police.[27]

Note, September 12, 2020: I am remembering a previous blog post in which I witnessed a local cop (in the Pittsburgh area) allowed his dog to bark viciously and persistently at a Black man who was doing nothing more than walking across a parking lot. Instances such as these, this one that I personally witnessed,[28] the one Ryan Devereaux describes,[29] and, of course, the disproportionate killings of Blacks,[30] virtually erase the distinction between police and white supremacist militia, transforming it to a distinction between regular (official) and irregular (unofficial) white supremacist militia. I don’t know how you conclude otherwise.

  1. [1]Ben Smith, “Obama on small-town Pa.: Clinging to religion, guns, xenophobia,” Politico, April 11, 2008, https://www.politico.com/blogs/ben-smith/2008/04/obama-on-small-town-pa-clinging-to-religion-guns-xenophobia-007737
  2. [2]Jason Togyer, “Fear and Loathing in the Time of Coronavirus,” Columbia Journalism Review, March 25, 2020, https://www.cjr.org/special_report/mckeesport-year-of-fear-covid-19-pandemic.php
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh, race, and a threat to appropriated identity,” Not Housebroken, May 30, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/05/17/pittsburgh-race-and-a-threat-to-appropriated-identity/
  4. [4]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america
  5. [5]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  6. [6]Stephen Maturen, “Wisconsin calls out National Guard after unrest over police shooting of Black man,” Reuters, August 24, 2020, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-global-race-usa-wisconsin/wisconsin-calls-out-national-guard-after-unrest-over-police-shooting-of-black-man-idUKKBN25K0CP
  7. [7]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/; Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  8. [8]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  9. [9]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  10. [10]Kathleen Parker, “Trump has essentially declared a ‘race war,’” Washington Post, July 30, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-has-essentially-declared-a-race-war/2019/07/30/ad6ae554-b305-11e9-8949-5f36ff92706e_story.html
  11. [11]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/; Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  12. [12]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/; Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells, “1 person is dead after a shooting during protests in downtown Portland,” CNN, August 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/30/us/portland-protest-fatal-shooting/index.html
  13. [13]Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells, “1 person is dead after a shooting during protests in downtown Portland,” CNN, August 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/30/us/portland-protest-fatal-shooting/index.html
  14. [14]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/; Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells, “1 person is dead after a shooting during protests in downtown Portland,” CNN, August 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/30/us/portland-protest-fatal-shooting/index.html
  15. [15]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  16. [16]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  17. [17]Mark Joseph Stern, “The Police Lie. All the Time. Can Anything Stop Them?” Slate, August 4, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/police-testilying.html
  18. [18]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/; Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  19. [19]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/
  20. [20]Ed Pilkington and Joanna Walters, “Portland clashes: Trump accused of encouraging violence after shooting,” Guardian, August 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/30/fatal-shooting-in-portland-as-trump-supporters-clash-with-black-lives-matter-protesters
  21. [21]Jeremy Stahl, “Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups,” Slate, August 26, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/kenosha-police-chief-daniel-miskinis-blames-protesters-for-own-deaths.html
  22. [22]Ed Pilkington and Joanna Walters, “Portland clashes: Trump accused of encouraging violence after shooting,” Guardian, August 31, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/30/fatal-shooting-in-portland-as-trump-supporters-clash-with-black-lives-matter-protesters
  23. [23]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Charlottesville: One killed in violence over US far-right rally,” August 13, 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40912509
  24. [24]Faiz Siddiqui and Isaac Stanley-Becker, “One person shot dead in Portland following clashes between pro-Trump supporters, counterprotesters,” Washington Post, August 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/29/blm-activists-counterprotesters-clash-portland-leading-arrests/; Hollie Silverman and Alta Spells, “1 person is dead after a shooting during protests in downtown Portland,” CNN, August 30, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/30/us/portland-protest-fatal-shooting/index.html
  25. [25]Conrad Wilson and Kimberley Freda, “Suspect In Fatal Shooting Of Portland Right-Wing Protester Killed By Law Enforcement,” National Public Radio, September 4, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/04/909515885/protester-suspected-in-portland-shooting-death-killed-by-law-enforcement
  26. [26]Mark Joseph Stern, “The Police Lie. All the Time. Can Anything Stop Them?” Slate, August 4, 2020, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/08/police-testilying.html
  27. [27]Amanda Arnold, “What Exactly Does It Mean to Defund the Police?” Cut, June 12, 2020, https://www.thecut.com/2020/06/what-does-defund-the-police-mean-the-phrase-explained.html; Zak Cheney-Rice, “Why Police Abolition Is a Useful Framework — Even for Skeptics,” New York, June 15, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/06/police-abolitionist-lessons-for-america.html
  28. [28]David Benfell, “Hey cops! Do you know what year it is?” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/hey-cops-do-you-know-what-year-it-is/
  29. [29]Ryan Devereaux, “The Thin Blue Line Between Violent, Pro-Trump Militias and Police,” Intercept, August 28, 2020, https://theintercept.com/2020/08/28/kyle-rittenhouse-violent-pro-trump-militias-police/
  30. [30]Mark Berman et al., “Protests spread over police shootings. Police promised reforms. Every year, they still shoot and kill nearly 1,000 people,” Washington Post, June 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/protests-spread-over-police-shootings-police-promised-reforms-every-year-they-still-shoot-nearly-1000-people/2020/06/08/5c204f0c-a67c-11ea-b473-04905b1af82b_story.html; James Downie, “Time to toss the ‘bad apples’ excuse,” Washington Post, May 31, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/31/time-toss-bad-apples-excuse/; Wesley Lowery, “Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no,” Washington Post, July 11, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/07/11/arent-more-white-people-than-black-people-killed-by-police-yes-but-no/; Brentin Mock, “What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings,” CityLab, August 6, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/equity/2019/08/police-officer-shootings-gun-violence-racial-bias-crime-data/595528/; Elie Mystal, “There’s Only One Possible Conclusion: White America Likes Its Killer Cops,” Nation, May 27, 2020, https://www.thenation.com/article/society/white-america-cops/; Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, “How Do We Change America?” New Yorker, June 8, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-do-we-change-america

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