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Fight for Civil Rights, Not a Civil War

Waking up June 4th in Hong Kong, the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, I was horrified to read later that day the Op Ed piece written by Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, published in The New York Times ­— advocating the use of American troops to quell the protests, looting and disorder across America in the wake of the May 25 murder of George Floyd.

“One thing above all else will restore order to our streets: an overwhelming show of force to disperse, detain and ultimately deter lawbreakers,” he wrote.

Coming on the heels of Trump’s destructive law-and-order march on June 1st from the White House to St. Johns Church, flanked by Attorney General Bill Barr, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley in his full military camouflage uniform, —  four white men — with National Guard, Secret Service, ICE and FBI forcibly removing peaceful protesters, clergy and journalists with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades, to take a picture with a Bible, one had to wonder if America was heading into another Civil War.

The fact that the photo op was an egregious violation of the constitutional separation of church and state is another matter.

It was bad enough when Trump threatened to send in the U.S. military to shoot looters on May 29 with his tweet “… when the looting starts the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Trump threatened that “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Trump would have to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to do so — and then only at the request of a state legislature or governor. In 1871, President Ulysses Grant used the act to fight the Ku Klux Klan; in 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower invoked it to enforce desegregation in Cotton’s state of Arkansas.

Both times it was invoked to end systemic racism, to enforce civil rights, not start a civil war!

Thankfully, Trump’s moves sparked an unprecedented wave of criticism from former presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama, as well as a wide array of former Defense Department officials, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, former secretary of state General Colin Powell, General Richard Myers, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under president George W. Bush, Trump’s former Chief of Staff General John Kelly and former defense secretary General James Mattis — and current Pentagon chief Mark Esper.

People of all colors, must work together to speak to power and lead the charge for real change — and stop a civil war.

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Illustration: Mark Caparosa

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