The International Crisis Group—more accustomed to reporting on war zones and conflicts within less-developed nations—issued Thursday its first-ever report on the United States which rebuked President Donald Trump for “courting conflict” amidst a nationwide uprising over police brutality and racial injustice.
“Sometimes, sitting by quietly and saying nothing is not an option,” tweeted Daniel Schneiderman, head of advocacy and research for the Brussels-based international think tank. “Whether we’re covering Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Honduras, or other hot spots, our singular mission is the prevention and mitigation of conflict wherever it arises.”
Sometimes, sitting by quietly and saying nothing is not an option. https://t.co/l5cxCXa6al
I’m proud of the work we do @CrisisGroup and our clarity in this moment is another reason why. Too much is at stake.
— Daniel Schneiderman (@SchneidermanDM) June 4, 2020
The non-partisan and non-profit group, which works “to prevent wars” and “build a more peaceful world” through public policy, wrote in its report that Trump and other Republican leaders are enflaming unrest in the U.S. by threatening an increasingly violent response to peaceful social justice protests.
“In Washington, the nation’s political and security leaders appeared to egg on a heavy-handed response, comparing U.S. cities to a ‘battlespace’ and threatening military action if local authorities did not quell the unrest,” the group said. “Over the long term, the nation will need to take steps to end the police’s brutality and militarization as well as structural racial inequality if it wants to avoid similar future crises.”
“What the country’s leadership most needs to do is insist that those culpable for Floyd’s killing are brought to justice, stand in support of those local officials and community leaders who are calling for calm and reform, abandon its martial rhetoric, and stop making the situation worse.”
—International Crisis Group
The group released the report a day after Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) published an op-ed in the New York Times calling on the federal government to send the U.S. military into cities to quash the protests which began after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by Minneapolis police officers—the latest of countless police killings of black Americans.
Trump has also in recent days called on state governors to “use the military” and throw protesters in prison “for 10 years,” and on Monday night Attorney General William Barr reportedly personally ordered the tear-gassing of dozens of demonstrators who were outside the White House. Police in other cities have shot rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray at peaceful protesters and journalists.
“What the country’s leadership most needs to do is insist that those culpable for Floyd’s killing are brought to justice, stand in support of those local officials and community leaders who are calling for calm and reform, abandon its martial rhetoric, and stop making the situation worse,” the report reads.
Instead of demanding the protests end, the International Crisis Group said, the president and the federal government as a whole must truthfully address the centuries of violence and systemic injustice “borne by the African American community.”
“The United States has never adequately come to terms with the horrific legacy of two and a half centuries of chattel slavery,” reads the report. “Nor has it healed or conquered the institutionalized violence and racism toward African Americans that followed their emancipation in the 1860s.”
Jim Crow laws, decades of lynchings, segregation in schools and workplaces, and “glaring structural inequalities” in healthcare, housing, and education have followed, the group wrote, adding:
Against this backdrop, police brutality toward black men and women has been both a chronic problem and a recurrent source of instability in U.S. cities.
The International Crisis Group called on Trump to stop framing the current unrest as a battle the federal government is waging against its own people.
“Perhaps the most sobering political development as the protests reached the one-week mark was a growing inclination among some prominent elected and security officials to frame the civil unrest in the language of armed conflict,” the group wrote. “The result, inevitably, will be to further undermine U.S. global standing and credibility, particularly when it comes to condemning repression or brutality perpetrated by other governments.”
The ICG’s report is just the latest expression of global shock and dismay over the events which prompted the protests and Trump’s response.
Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, last week called on U.S. officials to “take serious action to stop such killings, and to ensure justice is done when they do occur.” She also urged the police “to take utmost care not to enflame the current situation even more with any further use of excessive force.”
The prime minister of Australia also demanded an investigation into an attack by police on two Australian journalists who were covering the protests in Washington, D.C. A spokesman for Channel 7, the Australian station the reporters work for, accused the U.S. police of “wanton thuggery.”
With the world watching Trump’s response to protests over racial injustice that is obvious to the global community, the ICG said, the president must not “let chaos or spectacle obscure the origins of the week’s events.”
“Since assuming office in 2017, Trump has made much of his desire to pull the U.S. back from overseas wars,” the group said. “He should take great pains not to act like he wants one at home.”