Politics Analysis

Facing life in prison, Donald Trump fuels racial violence in the USA

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Cartoon by Mark David/@markdavidcartoons

Hatred and violence are surging across the United States as the former President lashes out at judges and prosecutors, reports Alan Austin.

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

SATURDAY BEFORE last, Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a White guy in Jacksonville, Florida, decorated his AR-15 military-style assault rifle with swastikas and other Nazi symbols then used that and a Glock handgun to kill three Black Floridians.

We don’t know exactly who inspired him to do this because he shot himself in a stand-off with police a short while later. But we know he was a registered Republican who openly expressed venomous racism.

Investigating officer, Sheriff T K Waters, said messages left by Palmeter revealed his “disgusting ideology of hate”.

“Plainly put, the shooting was racially motivated,” Waters said. “He wanted to kill n******. That’s the one and only time I’ll use that word... He hated Blacks and I think he hated just about everyone that wasn't White."

State Senator for Florida Tracie Davis said the premeditated attack was devastating for her constituents:

“I’m sad to realise we are in 2023 and as a Black person we are still hunted, because that’s what that was.”

Widespread pattern of Trump-related violence

We don’t know yet if there is a direct link between Palmeter’s hate murders and the racist rhetoric of former President and indicted criminal defendant, Donald Trump. We do know Trump has ramped up his hate speech lately against people of colour in authority.

We know Trump inspired threats earlier in August from Craig Deleeuw Robertson in Provo, Utah, to kill President Joe Biden on his trip to Utah. According to court documents, Robertson described himself as a “MAGA Trumper” and posted online that Biden’s visit required him to find a camouflage suit and 'clean the dust off the M24 sniper rifle'.

Robertson, also shot by FBI agents, referred to a “presidential assassination” and threatened others by name, including New York Attorney General Letitia James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, all targets of Trump.

Recent rants and dog whistles

Trump has lashed out angrily at attorneys who prepared the 91 criminal indictments issued against him in four jurisdictions, often using overtly racist language.

Trump told a Texas rally earlier this year:

“These prosecutors are vicious, horrible people. They’re racists and they’re very sick, they’re mentally sick.” 

He has vilified Alvin Bragg, who has laid 34 felony charges against him relating to falsifying documents, as a “Soros-backed animal”. That’s despite no evidence that George Soros, the Hungarian-American billionaire who supports progressive causes, has assisted Bragg.

Trump claimed Bragg was a “degenerate psychopath” who “hates the USA”. Bragg’s office later received white powder in a letter that threatened 'Alvin, I am going to kill you'.

In a message last September on Truth Social, Trump referred to Letitia James as 'Racist A.G. Letitia "Peekaboo" James', using a nickname similar to an insult directed at people of colour.

After Georgian district attorney Fany Willis laid multiple charges against him and 18 others for election interference, Trump called her a “rabid partisan”. He ran a baseless advertisement accusing her of a relationship with a gangster she was prosecuting, an ad Willis called “derogatory and false”.

Two weeks ago, Trump posted that prosecutors should lay off him and go after those who 'rigged the Election', adding 'they only went after those that fought to find the riggers!'

Trump supporters have since used the term “riggers” – which rhymes with the offensive racial slur – in messages calling for Trump’s perceived enemies to be killed.

Trump has overtly encouraged direct action. 'Protest, take our nation back,' he tweeted in March. He claimed 'evil & sinister people' were 'killing our nation as we sit back and watch. We must save America! Protest, protest, protest!!!'

Several observers believe Trump’s violent rhetoric has directly inspired the surge in physical attacks since his pact with Fox News in 2015 to promote his political agenda. 'It makes the internet a more dangerous place,' said Heidi Beirich, from the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. 'It just takes one angry person with a gun to do something terrible. That’s the kind of violence I’m the most worried about.'

Pro-Trump gun violence continues to escalate

We now have data on all shootings to the end of August, the two-thirds stage of the year, which enables us to extrapolate probable tallies for 2023.

Mass shootings in the USA reached 478 last Thursday, which points to an annual total of 717, the highest ever. 

Mass shootings 2011-23 Aug Final.jpg

Other categories of gun violence on track for new all-time highs include police officers shot – now 295, on track for 443 – and teenagers aged 12 to 17 shot is now a staggering 3,776, heading for 5,664. That’s more than double the 2015 toll of 2,699.

Child shooting victims aged 0 to 11 numbered 679 last Thursday, tracking for an annual total of 1,019. That would be the second-highest on record, after 1,063 in 2021.

School shooting incidents already total 27 for the year with 42 deaths and injuries. That’s lower than last year’s record but well above average.

Gradual progress

Total firearm homicides appear to have turned the corner and are now trending downwards again, but from an appalling high above 20,000 in 2021.

Gun murders 2009-23 Aug Final.jpg

The Australian connection

The White racist who killed the three Black Floridians in August had bought his firearms legally and easily, which has fueled debate about gun availability.

Australia remains the best example to Americans of restricting ownership to those who need firearms – police, security officers, farmers and professional shooters – and banning handguns and assault rifles altogether.

Evidence from Australia, which has comparable history, demographics and culture to the USA, is compelling. As we saw in May, the U.S. homicide rate is nearly ten times that of Australia’s.

Sensible gun laws – and electing sensible people to high office – will end that disparity.

*This article is also available on audio here:

Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.

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