People in Washington, D.C. joined others this week in publicly opposing the use of controversial practices by law enforcement agents that have killed many black Americans for no apparent reason.
They held a protest Monday near Lafayette Square, a park adjacent to the White House. Their demonstration was peaceful, but members of the U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops still intervened.
The officers and military personnel used either tear gas or smoke bombs to disperse the crowd. There didn’t seem to be the threat of violence, so this measure seemed excessive.
It turns out their presence was inconvenient. President Donald Trump wanted to walk through Lafayette Square on his way to St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the park.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which oversees the church, said Mr. Trump did not journey to St. John’s to seek spiritual guidance. He went there to use this particular house of worship as a background for a photo-op.
“He used violent means to ask to be escorted across the park into the courtyard of the church,” Bishop Budde said in a story published Tuesday by NPR. “He held up his Bible after speaking [an] inflammatory militarized approach to the wounds of our nation.
“He did not pray,” she said. “He did not offer a word of balm or condolence to those who are grieving. He did not seek to unify the country, but rather he used our symbols and our sacred space as a way to reinforce a message that is antithetical to everything that the person of Jesus, whom we follow, and the gospel texts that we strive to emulate ... represent.”
Protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was detained by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. The officer pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground with a knee on his neck for nine minutes while his hands were in handcuffs. Mr. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, but none of the officers at the scene did anything to help him.
Some of the demonstrations around the country turned violent. Police officers were injured Monday in Las Vegas and St. Louis. Several protesters were killed and property owners assaulted while fires destroyed numerous buildings.
Mr. Trump infuriated many people with his callous reaction to the mayhem. He invoked violent language and urged governors to “dominate” protesters. He’s done much more to divide the nation than to console it.
The president has been criticized for his appalling behavior throughout this period of unrest, and justly so. We don’t expect him to have all the answers to why so many black Americans die at the hands of police officers under dubious circumstances.
But we have a right to expect Mr. Trump to at least address the concerns of so many people by showing he’s listening to them. He doesn’t merely represent those who make up his base of supporters. He’s the president of the entire country, and all of us deserve to know he’s taking our grievances seriously.
When our country faces a crisis, Mr. Trump far too often fails to rise to the occasion. He horribly mismanaged vital preparation tasks when the novel coronavirus pandemic broke out and refuses to accept responsibility for his mistakes. When challenged on his glaring incompetence, he acts like a child by blaming other people and lying about how things are going.
This is not leadership, and it’s not acceptable. We’ve been waiting for more than three years for Mr. Trump to finally act presidential, but we’re once again sorely disappointed.