Jun 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's "looting" and "shooting" tweet reminded James Clyburn of Bull Connor

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) says President Trump's "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" tweet reminded him of one of the most famous enemies of civil rights from the 1960s — and that Trump's responses to the protests against police brutality prove "there's no compassion in this guy."

Driving the news: In an interview with "Axios on HBO," Clyburn compared Trump to Bull Connor, the segregationist commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s who was known for using firehoses and police dogs on civil rights protesters, including children.

  • "I thought about Bull Connor. This president has been mimicking all of those things in this presidency," said Clyburn, who organized sit-ins during the civil rights movement.

The big picture: Clyburn's harsh words for Trump weren't confined to his handling of the George Floyd protests. In the interview with Axios' Alexi McCammond, he also claimed that Trump wants to declare himself "dictator" or "president for life" and has no plans for a fair election — and that African Americans should vote in November "because we have to do our part to stop this man."

  • "This country was fooled by this man once. That shame is on him. If this country gets fooled by this man twice, the shame will be on us as a country," he said.
  • "I do believe that this great democracy is under threat. The leadership of the Republican Party really need to take stock of themselves."

Despite the urgency of the protests against police violence and systemic racism, Clyburn said he hasn't changed his views on whether Joe Biden should pick an African American woman as his running mate. He said Biden "should" do so, but added, "I think it would be a plus, but not a must."

  • He said Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Val Demings, who are considered two top candidates for the job, shouldn't be held back because of their law enforcement backgrounds. (Harris was a prosecutor; Demings was the police chief in Orlando.)
  • "These two women broke through a glass ceiling," Clyburn said. "We asked them to be — to excel in their professions, and now all of a sudden you're gonna hold it against them?"

And he said "the timing of this is real bad for [Sen.] Amy Klobuchar" — who had been considered another leading candidate for the VP pick — because of her background as a prosecutor in Minnesota who didn't prosecute police who were accused of using excessive force against African Americans.

  • "I like her. I respect her. There's absolutely nothing that Amy can do about the circumstances that exist in Minneapolis today," Clyburn said. "There's one thing about politics, timing is everything."

Between the lines: Clyburn sees other parallels between now and the days of the civil rights movement. He said that when he watched the video of George Floyd being murdered at the hands of Minneapolis police, he thought of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American from Chicago who was tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

  • "I wondered whether or not Emmett Till was put through something similar before he was put to death," Clyburn said. "And to hear George Floyd calling out for his dead mother, that, to me, conjured up a feeling that I would rather not publicly express."
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