The image illustrating a recent Atlantic article about the far-left “antifa” activists perhaps says it best.
It’s a fire extinguisher throwing out flames and smoke.
And it illustrates the violence and threats of violence that some opponents of President Trump have inflicted on the nation.
“On Inauguration Day, a masked activist punched the white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer. In February, protesters violently disrupted UC Berkeley’s plans to host a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart,com editor. In March, protesters pushed and shoved the controversial conservative political scientist Charles Murray when he spoke at Middlebury College, in Vermont,” the report said.
The activists demand the banning speech with which they disagree, warning that if allowed to proceed, they will react with violence.
The Atlantic noted some of these actions are spilling blood.
“Since antifa is heavily composed of anarchists, its activists place little faith in the state, which they consider complicit in fascism and racism. They prefer direct action.”
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has announced it is eliminating Obama-era restrictions on the distribution of surplus military gear by the Defense Department to local police departments.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions explained the policy change in a Monday speech to the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville.
Trump’s executive order “will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal,” Sessions told the assembled officers, according to NBC News.
Jeff Roorda, a retired police officer and current business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said it was “absolutely” the right move by the Trump administration. He said military equipment gives police better control over an unruly crowd.
“It keeps police officers safe and it keeps the crowd safer,” Roorda told WND. “When law enforcement is unable to respond safely, then people who get caught in the madness of these protests can be in real danger.”
The Defense Department has been allowed, since 1990, to transfer surplus military equipment and supplies to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies through what is known as the “1033 program.” Originally intended for counter-drug operations, the program was later expanded to include all police missions.
The secondhand gear includes equipment the police agencies would typically be unable to afford. More than $5.4 billion worth of gear has been transferred under the program since the 1990s, according to CNN.
However, Obama’s Justice Department concluded police use of military-style equipment inflamed tensions and created fear among demonstrators during the violent street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Obama forbade law enforcement from receiving certain types of gear from DoD, including armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said in 2015. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”
But Roorda, who lives and works in the St. Louis area, where Ferguson is located, said military-style equipment was critical to the success of the police during the Ferguson riots.
“It absolutely saved lives,” said Roorda, author of “The War on Police: How the Ferguson Effect is Making America Unsafe.” “I mean, you’re talking about the difference between police officers dying and police officers not dying.”
In rescinding Obama’s policy, the Trump Justice Department cited two studies by economists that found the use of military-style equipment can have positive effects, reducing assaults on officers and complaints by citizens.
A Trump administration document describing the executive order says it “sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and make officers more effective.”
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund opposed the decision, calling it “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible.”
Janai Nelson, associate director counsel for the group, said the executive order “puts more firepower in the hands of police departments that remain largely untrained on matters of racial bias and endangers the public. Inviting the use of military weaponry against our domestic population is nothing short of recasting the public as an enemy.”
Roorda insists it’s “not offensive equipment, it’s defensive equipment,.”
“Officers shouldn’t be asked to place themselves in harm’s way and respond to civil disturbances that we’ve seen in Ferguson and elsewhere that quickly turn violent without the proper means to protect themselves and to bring that violence under control,” the former cop said.