June 1, 2020 - Trump Associated with Show of Force in Face of Racial Protests

In response to the protests nationwide reacting to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, President Trump called on local and state leaders to more forcefully quell the calls for racial justice. On June 1, 2019, law enforcement deploys tear gas on a group of peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park (in front of the White House) immediately preceding Trump’s walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he stood with a bible and administration officials for photos by the media. The church had suffered fire damage the night before during racial justice protests. An inspector general report released in June 2021 suggests that the operation to remove protestors was not directly connected to Trump’s photo-op, as originally reported, but leaves many questions about the involvement of the White House and force deployed by various levels of law enforcement that day. Throughout the remainder of his campaign, Trump described racial justice protesters as “terrorists”  and “thugs.” This event and Trump’s persistent rhetoric about the protests illuminated both his masculine presentation style (leaning on the use of force as a solution) and the ways in which he leveraged the racial justice reckoning to mine supporters’ feelings of racial resentment and fear.