Tag Archives: Police

The seven biggest threats to Donald Trump’s presidency

The mass of protesters converging for Trump’s inauguration is not his only headache.

NEW YORK // US President Barack Obama’s inauguration shows featured the likes of Beyonce and Bruce Springsteen. Country singer Toby Keith, who is perhaps the top name at Donald Trump’s welcome bash, does not come with quite the same stardust.

But, sadly for Trump, his kudos among pop stars is not his biggest problem. The president-elect will take the oath of office on January 20 amid widespread scepticism from the public and with ready-made enemies in US spy agencies, the business community and even his own Republican Party.

On the surface, Trump’s feisty use of Twitter and his bullish handling of reporters at a recent press conference make him look the alpha male. But his bravado masks vulnerabilities seldom seen by those about to enter the Oval Office.

Before the billionaire property magnate is sworn in on the steps of the US Capitol on Friday, Al Jazeera spoke to Washington insiders about the headaches Trump is likely to suffer during his first 100 days of rolling out plans to make America great again.

1. Public opinion
Trump lost the popular vote on November 8 by 2.9 million votes, only winning the election via a superior tally in the Electoral College. The latest CBS News poll showed only 32 percent of respondents had a favourable view of him, lower than George W Bush (44 percent) and Obama (60 percent) when they were first sworn in.

According to Pew Research Center, most Americans want Trump to publish his tax returns, worry about him using the Oval Office to line his pockets and think he has explained his policy goals poorly. Others fret about his impulsive behaviour, which was on show again with recent Twitter tirades against the actress Meryl Streep, and John Lewis, a civil rights icon.

Trump’s efforts to reopen factories on US soil are popular in mostly white rust-belt zones, but his appeal in these areas may ebb as he cuts healthcare plans for the poor. “Those who voted for him will soon see that his policies will impact them negatively as well,” Susan Smith, from the Muslim Peace Fellowship, a think-tank, told Al Jazeera.

2. Protesters
Not everyone heading to Washington on Friday will cheer the 45th president’s oath-taking. Officials have struggled to find enough space for protesters to stage some 25 rallies over the weekend. The biggest is the Women’s March on Washington, which will draw some 200,000 people decrying threats to abortion laws, affordable healthcare and equal pay.

Other groups will spotlight everything from ending war to legalising marijuana. Environmentalists are irked by Trump’s claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Big rallies will also take place in Los Angeles, Chicago and other major cities in the US and globally.

Veteran protester Paul Kawika Martin, from the anti-war group Peace Action, was sceptical about the impact of rallies, which are not likely to match the scale of those against the Iraq War of 2003. “Big street protests are slowly going the way of dinosaurs,” Martin told Al Jazeera.

Others activists, such as Khury Petersen-Smith, praise recent gains made by the Black Lives Matter race justice movement and the Standing Rock oil pipeline protests.

“We cannot only put our faith in elected officials,” Petersen-Smith told Al Jazeera. “We need to harness grassroots power, keep immigration police out, turn college campuses into sanctuaries and work locally to create pockets of resistance.”

Of course, hundreds of thousands of others will head to the capital to root for the next commander-in-chief, including the motorcycle cavalcade Bikers for Trump and the attendees of the Deploraball shindig.

3. Republicans
Trump’s fans were always the grassroots folk who turned out in droves to his campaign rallies, not well-heeled apparatchiks in Washington. The latter would have preferred Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or another established Republican candidate to lead the party.

That said, members are broadly falling into line behind Trump in pursuit of nixing Obamacare and other bullet points on the right’s agenda. But troubles persist. Rubio and John McCain, an Arizona senator, kicked up a fuss during hearings for Trump’s appointees.

They worry about Kremlin-backed hackers swinging the election and Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Others fear Trump’s antipathy to trade deals and his sniping at European and Asian allies. Pundits question whether members will tire of his excesses and pro-Moscow outlook, and point to soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence as a potential successor.

“Trump gives the far-right most of the policies that it wants, but he’s also deeply problematic,” Jonathan Cristol, a fellow at the World Policy Institute think-tank, told Al Jazeera. “Pence will also deliver what they want, while also being a typical, bland, mid-western, far-right-leaning Republican.”

4. Democrats
The election effectively handed Republicans dominance of the White House, Congress and Supreme Court. Many Democrats are now second-guessing the choice of Hillary Clinton to run against Trump over the affable leftist Bernie Sanders, and wondering whether the party should swing left.

Dozens of Democrat politicians will boycott the inauguration as the Trump backlash begins.

“The Democrats went into post-election shock, but that will wear off as they retreat, strategise, get re-energised and return,” said Martin. “They won the popular vote in November and will look to make significant gains in the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections.”

5. Liberal mayors
Democrats lost big in the election, but still hold sway in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other US metropolises. These hubs have track records for blocking federal government immigration crackdowns and have earned monikers as “sanctuary cities”.

Trump, meanwhile, has talked of deporting “bad hombres” among the US’ 11 million undocumented migrants, creating Muslim registries and re-introducing the “stop-and-frisk” policing tactic that can single out blacks and Latinos.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected such policies and said he would refuse to let Trump “tear families apart”. Other Democrat mayors agreed, and can limit cooperation with the US Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other deportation agencies.

“If mayors stand up, like so many have, we can block deportation forces from entering our cities, looking for undocumented people, kicking down doors and breaking up families,” Cathy Schneider, an urban politics scholar at American University, told Al Jazeera.

“Our cities must become bastions of protection for our citizens and immigrants.”

Washington can retaliate by freezing funds to defiant mayors, but the outcome would be unpredictable and messy. “It’s hard to say who would win, but the administration must pick its battles carefully,” added Martin.

6. Spymasters
Intelligence chiefs are doubtless bad people to irk.

Trump did just this when he said he was a “smart person” who did not need the daily intelligence digests that his predecessors received. This month, US spooks said Russia tried to sway the election outcome in Trump’s favour by hacking and other means.

Trump rejected their conclusion and slammed them for the bogus reports of mass-casualty weapons that led to the Iraq war. His links to Moscow faced renewed scrutiny after an unsubstantiated report that Russia had compromising evidence against Trump.

“We will see more leaks to the press about the ineptitude of the Trump administration and about Trump’s ties to Russia as time goes by,” said Cristol.

Washington bureaucrats are not likely to confront Trump directly, but have other weapons, said Martin. “They know the system and how to resist what they don’t like. We see this happening in the intelligence community already; and there’s more pushback to come.”

7. Corporations
So far, businesses are dancing to Trump’s beat. General Motors, Wal-Mart and others have announced plans for job-creation or re-locating factories to US soil. This is in line with Trump’s plans to create US jobs and build home-grown manufacturing by taxing imports.

They also fear his wrath: Trump’s criticism that drug firms were over-charging for medicines saw their stock tumble. It works for now, but executives may turn on Trump should his mooted trade war with China go awry, disrupt the global supply chains that enable much US business and ultimately hurt US workers.

“If Trump messes up the world economy, there’ll be lots of rich, powerful corporations with legions of lobbyists to resist him,” said Martin.

This article first appeared on Al Jazeera.

Picking up the pieces in riot-struck Ferguson

Residents count the cost of violence after black American teenager shot dead by white Missouri police officer.

FERGUSON, UNITED STATES // Webster Morris clears up broken glass from the night-time looting of his clothes store in central Ferguson Рthe epicentre of protests over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager that has turned increasingly violent.

The shattered windows of Fashions R are covered with plywood that is daubed with dripping red crosses and the words “Oh blood”, lyrics from a religious song. Glaziers are out of stock and new panes would get smashed anyway in ongoing protests, he said.

“We’re Christian but the people who are looting, they don’t care nothing about the Church,” Morris told Al Jazeera. “They wouldn’t care if we put Jesus himself up there. This ain’t about them. It’s about letting the community know we’re gonna stay.”

Like many in this downtrodden suburb of St Louis, Morris has conflicting views on the protests that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, who was walking with a friend down a residential street on the afternoon of August 9.

Deploying the Missouri National Guard was a smart move, Morris said, if troops stop looters while letting peaceful protesters air grievances. But the killing of 18-year-old Brown fits a local narrative that white cops are “untouchable” in a mostly black neighbourhood, he added.

“If one of us had shot a police officer, we would be in jail and prosecuted,” said Sylvia Ekford, an assistant in Morris’ store.

‘One law for them, one law for us’

This perception of perverted justice echoes across Ferguson, after 11 days of increasingly violent protests that have resisted rubber bullets and tear gas and raised fresh questions about US race relations nearly six years after Americans elected their first black president.

The officer responsible, Darren Wilson, is not in jail but suspended with pay as the shooting is investigated. Some suggest Wilson may have acted in self-defence. Witnesses say Brown was shot while holding his arms up to surrender.

“The police have one law for them and one law for us,” said Sherman Hawkins, a cleaner, while sipping a beer in his parked car on West Florissant Avenue, a street of mostly fast-food joints, pawn shops and charity thrift stores.

“It’s meant to be the same for everybody. If it had been a black guy who shot somebody on the street, they would have been locked up straight away. So why’s he not in jail? That don’t make any sense.”

US President Barack Obama speaks of a “gulf of mistrust” between police and residents in places such as Ferguson. “In too many communities, too many young men of colour are left behind and seen only as objects of fear,” he said on Monday.

Ferguson, a suburb of some 21,000 people, has a long history of race tensions. Black residents, about 65 percent of town’s population, complain about bad schools, worse job prospects, and harassment from a police force that is 94 percent white.

‘Sundown towns’

Ekford said she sits in the store with doors open, watching the daily soap opera of police shakedowns.

“Let’s see how many times they stop people today. We take a tally and it’s always kids who can’t afford it, getting five or six tickets at a time, knowing that they can’t afford to pay it – $500 when they got jobs paying $8 or less an hour,” she told Al Jazeera.

“The police need the revenue, that’s why they’re writing up all these tickets.”

Jim Loewen, a former sociologist at the University of Vermont, said Ferguson’s race tensions are rooted in a history of so-called “sundown towns”. Police forced blacks to exit white-only suburbs before sunset during the segregation era.

Ferguson was 85 percent white in 1980, but a white-flight in recent decades swung the demographics to 67 percent black by 2012. White families left for whiter neighbourhoods in fear of crashing property prices as their community was ghettoised, he said.

“It’s a second-generation problem: an overwhelmingly white police force with sundown town attitudes. They racially profile. They think they can completely disregard people’s rights because they think they’re doing it in the service of their town,” Loewen told Al Jazeera.

Race is a factor. Black and white Americans view Ferguson’s protests differently. A Pew Research Center survey found that blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that Brown’s shooting “raises important issues about race”. Whites are more likely to say it has been overblown.

Elizabeth Kneebone, a poverty analyst at Brookings Institute, said it is about money. As Ferguson got blacker, it also got poorer. Unemployment rose from five percent in 2000 to more than 13 percent in 2012. In the same period, those with jobs have seen pay cheques shrink by one-third.

Ferguson’s tensions were ignited by a killing, but the conditions are seen elsewhere across the US, Kneebone added. The number of suburban neighbourhoods in which more than a fifth of residents live in poverty more than doubled from 2000-12.

“There have been rapid changes in the demography of poverty this past decade,” she told Al Jazeera. “There are more people in poverty in the suburbs now than in cities, which are ill-equipped for growing poor populations and lack a leadership structure that reflects the community’s make-up.”

Military solution?

For Michael McPhearson, director of the anti-war group Veterans For Peace, the take-home message from Ferguson is how protest crowd-control increasingly resembles the military hardware he witnessed in use by US forces overseas.

He pointed to camouflage kits and military-grade body armour, short-barrelled assault rifles and armoured trucks – perhaps even a mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle, which protects troops from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I fought in Iraq and didn’t have that much gear, even though I was facing real soldiers carrying loaded AK-47s,” he told Al Jazeera. “All this equipment creates a mentality and raises the stakes on a situation to make it much more likely that people will get killed.”

Back at the bashed-up clothing store, Morris checks that his new window panels can withstand another night’s rioting. Angry crowds down the street are growing. There are rumours of Molotov cocktails, guns and trouble-makers in from New York and California.

“I don’t care how many police you bring in, the only way you can stop someone who’s angry and hurt is to shoot them,” he said.

“We’ve been pulled over so many times. We’ve been arrested so many times. There are so many people who have no fear. Some of these young people don’t care about life anymore.”

This article first appeared on Al Jazeera.