Robert Fantina

“Trump seems to be anxious to call out the army, which the government generally only uses to slaughter innocent people in foreign countries,” Fantina told the Balkans Post.

“But if he is able to do so, against the advice of most of his senior leaders, the killing of U.S. citizens on the streets of U.S. cities may increase greatly,” he added.

Balkans Post: What are your thoughts on the U.S. government’s response to the widespread protests that broke out in the U.S. over the police killing of George Floyd?  

Robert Fantina: A defenseless, unarmed Black man was brutally murdered by white police officers. It is not unreasonable to say that he was tortured to death. This was just the latest in a long string of such murders, crimes for which the perpetrator is seldom held accountable. This enraged much of the U.S. citizenry, which took to the streets for mainly peaceful demonstrations.

But the U.S. government will never tolerate the questioning of its racist policies; this attitude has increased under the current president Donald Trump. Therefore, the response of the government was extreme. The National Guard was deployed in many states, and Trump himself encouraged the violent suppression of the protests.

It must be remembered that this was not civil war; the protesters were not attacking government institutions, demanding the overthrow of the Trump regime. These were people disgusted by the racism of the mainly-white police forces in the United States, and they were venting their anger at a grossly unjust system, and demanding change.

BP: Canada and Western European countries have been criticized for their failure to condemn the U.S. government’s human rights violations. What do you think about this issue?

Robert Fantina: It is the rare country that is governed by a strong and principled leader. Although historically Canada has taken a stand independent of the United States, in recent years it simply follows the U.S. lead and hesitates to be critical of it. The same is true for most of the countries of Europe. Trump does not hesitate to criticize and threaten the U.S.’s oldest and most trusted allies, and they do not want to jeopardize profitable trade deals with the U.S. These leaders only show their weakness by not condemning the U.S.’s constant human rights violations at home and around the world.

BP: U.S. President Donald Trump recently described the protesters as “thugs” and said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” His remarks were widely criticized for inciting violence. What role has Trump personally played in inciting the protesters?

Robert Fantina: Since prior to his inauguration, Trump has been a divisive figure in the United States. During the current civil unrest, he has done nothing to calm the situation; rather, he has increased the anger that so many people feel. His comment that “When the looting start, the shooting starts” is taken from a statement the mayor of Miami, Florida said during civil unrest due to racism in 1967; for Trump to use that expression today is astonishing, even for him. His calling protesters ‘thugs’ also has racial overtones. He has done nothing to reassure an angry populace that he understands their rage, recognizes that racism remains a serious problem in the United States, and will work to alleviate it. Rather, he has threatened the protesters, telling U.S. government officials that they need to ‘dominate’ the protesters, instead of offering them any possible solutions.

He has violated the rights of people to protest peacefully; perhaps the most shocking example is when he ordered peaceful protesters to be violently removed from the area of the famous St. John’s Episcopal Church, so he could walk there from the White House where he stood in front of the church, awkwardly holding aloft a bible.

BP: Despite the U.S. police’s brutal crackdown on protesters, the death toll has been significantly low. However, protests of similar magnitude in non-Western countries usually lead to more deaths. What would you make of this?

Robert Fantina: The U.S. government believes it has an image to maintain; during periods of civil unrest, it is anxious to end them quickly, but without making international headlines showing bloodied citizens lying dead in U.S. streets. And while it may not be at all apparent to Trump, an increased death toll would only cause more unrest. People today who may be troubled by racism in the United States, but are unwilling to take to the streets, may become motivated if they were to see the slaughter of peaceful protesters.

And it is still too early to evaluate the death toll from the demonstrations. Trump seems to be anxious to call out the army, which the government generally only uses to slaughter innocent people in foreign countries. But if he is able to do so, against the advice of most of his senior leaders, the killing of U.S. citizens on the streets of U.S. cities may increase greatly.

Robert Fantina is an author and activist for peace and international human rights. A U.S. citizen, he moved to Canada following the 2004 presidential election. His books include ‘Desertion and the American Soldier – 1776 – 2006’; Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy’; and ‘Essays on Palestine’, a collection of his writing on the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel. He has also written about the impact that war has on individuals, in his novel, Look Not Unto the Morrow, a Vietnam-era, anti-war story.