Does MSNBC need some help with how to cover the violent protests occurring in Portland? Because at every turn, network hosts blame everything but the protestors themselves for the anarchy, which every American can see thanks to widespread footage from the past 60 days.
The latest example of this blame-shifting came from a Monday segment of Morning Joe, in which co-host Joe Scarborough coughed his way through blaming federal officers for the looting and burning:
So, Commissioner Bratton, I want to talk to you about a few things. I wanna talk to you about the violence going on in Seattle and Oakland and Portland, but first let's talk about the federal forces that Donald Trump and Bill Barr took out to Portland, and you saw the images of unidentified officers grabbing people, throwing them into unmarked cars and taking them away. Often without probable cause. Let's start right there. What's your reaction to what you have seen from the government's side? From the Trump administration's side?
Considering Scarborough was a one-time attorney, he has been reacting strangely to the idea of unmarked police activity, something that happens every single day and done above-board as a way to catch criminals. His guest, former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, continued this narrative:
Well, I think the genie is out of the bottle, Joe, and I think on both the Republican and Democratic side there needs to be great concern about getting through the summer and the run-up to the election that it's quite clear that moving these special forces into cities and further escalate, if there be more assignments, is going to increase the violence.
Clearly the public as evidenced by the demonstrations in Portland and now the growing demonstrations around the country have a great deal of concern and they should, because of great belief that this may be an inappropriate use of those forces. This type of function has traditionally been the law of local police
His remarks ignorantly ignored the fact that the local police have shown a lack of ability or willingness to stop these violent demonstrations, evidenced by the fact that these protests have gone on for 60 straight days. Seattle police are no exception after the Mayor and the Police Chief allowed CHAZ to exist for weeks, until people started dying.
But of course, Morning Joe saved the worst for last. Scarborough just had to bring on their favorite race-baiting, Jew-hating guest Al Sharpton to dismiss the violence:
Maya, as we battle this police reform, the George Floyd bill pending now, really sitting on Speaker McConnell's desk, already passed by the House, many of us trying to pressure McConnell to move forward, is it your fear that the activities will take away from legislative change and will affect juries in the trials of those police officers that have been charged in the death of George Floyd and in the death, civilians charged in the death of Arbery? Because at the end of the day, we have real trials and real legislation pending and strategies ought to have that in mind.
Remember, law-abiding citizens of Portland and Seattle, your businesses can be set ablaze but MSNBC will view it as “activities” like it is arts and crafts nights or block parties. This just goes to show that they don’t care about you or law and order. Instead, they’re willfully consumed by narratives and their own political agendas.
Read the full transcript below to learn more.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe
8:41 AM ET
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Protests over racial justice turned violent over the weekend, fueled in large part by the anger over federal forces being deployed to Portland. Thousands protested across the country with riots being declared in both Seattle and Portland on Saturday. It comes amid calls to reform police and a significant increase in crime in many major cities. Joining us now, co-founder and CEO of the Center For Policing Equity and a professor of African-American Studies and Psychology at Yale university, Phillip Ateeba Goff. Former Police Commissioner for New York City,Bill Bratton. MSNBC news contributor and conservative radio host Charlie Sykes and legal analyst for NBC news and MSNBC Maya Wiley. Good to have you all onboard with us.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: So, Commissioner Bratton, I want to talk to you about a few things. I wanna talk to you about the violence going on in Seattle and Oakland and Portland, but first let's talk about the federal forces that Donald Trump and Bill Barr took out to Portland, and you saw the images of unidentified officers grabbing people, throwing them into unmarked cars and taking them away. Often without probable cause. Let's start right there. What's your reaction to what you have seen from the government's side? From the Trump administration's side?
BILL BRATTON: There’s a great deal of concern among my law enforcement colleagues both in the federal and government and municipal, state police forces about this issue. This is an historic use of federal police forces in this capacity, and is of great concern. Clearly the public as evidenced by the demonstrations in Portland and now the growing demonstrations around the country have a great deal of concern and they should, because of great belief that this may be an inappropriate use of those forces. This type of function has traditionally been the law of local police, whether municipal or state police forces and it does not seem to be a great deal of coordination between the federal government and local municipal forces are trying to protect these buildings and that is of great concern, great great concern.
SCARBOROUGH: We saw some violence in the protests after George Floyd's death. Saw some looting, saw some vandalism. And it was -- it was, much, many of it by outside agitators. Certainly the shooting and the killing of a federal officer in Oakland was by an outside agitator. I'm curious, Mr. Commissioner, what needs to be done to de-escalate the crisis right now in Portland? The one that's growing in Seattle, and Oakland and in other parts of the country? Because we actually had a more turbulent early stage. Things calmed down, and now it's re-ignited again in Portland.
BRATTON: Well, I think the genie is out of the bottle, Joe, and I think on both the Republican and Democratic side there needs to be great concern about getting through the summer and the run-up to the election that it's quite clear that moving these special forces into cities and further escalate, if there be more assignments, is going to increase the violence. Because it's quite obvious that there are those that, in these demonstrations, not to support Black Lives Matter or the causes that have been bringing out the large crowds, but they’ve been there for their own intentions. And I fear that even after the election, no matter the outcome, Republicans going back in or Democrats coming in, those forces which are being invigorated by all of this is quite clearly cased poorly and now the growing demonstrations around the country, many of them violent, I'm not sure that after the election that things will calm down. I think there are forces here who are being energized by this, and the shame of it, it's taking away from the legitimacy of the initial reason for these demonstrations. Police reform. It has become very, very chaotic and in my 50 years associated with policing going back to when I used to stand outside those federal buildings in Boston during the anti-war demonstrations, I've never seen a time like this and I’ve never been as concerned as I am at this particular minute to our history.
SCARBOROUGH: Hmm. Very strong words. Maya, the, head of the NAACP in Portland talked about some of the violence as a distraction. What are your thoughts as you see an overreach, gross overreach by the federal government of, of police powers, and also what we're seeing played out in the street every night. This as NAACP had out in Portland said this quote "Spectacle" that seems to be growing by the night?
MAYA WILEY: Well, Bill is absolutely right, that this is a very scary time and it's unprecedented, because what we're seeing is federal agents instigating more violence. I say "Instigating" because in many instances we're seeing video where the aggressive level of law enforcement, which I would not call law enforcement. I’d call it instigation is ratcheting up the violence. It's actually a cause. We even see this in local policing sometimes. Where the way that police respond to anger and to demonstration, even when it's peaceful, provokes the violence itself. And that is something to be concerned about when we're seeing federal agents on the ground who are actually not even trained to do the thing that they're being told to do. They are not trained. Even when we have training we have problems, but that tells me, is it a distraction? Absolutely. The place to look is the distraction that's created by essentially violating some of the most basic norms of our Constitution by taking local law enforcement away from local law enforcement.
SCARBOROUGH: So Phillip, the marches over the past several months, mostly peaceful marches but again, there was violence in the early marches. There’ve been, there’s been violence in Portland and other west coast cities of late. But it was about police reform. And after George Floyd's death, after the killing of George Floyd, you, this morning, are announcing a new initiative regarding police reform. What can you tell us?
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF: Yeah, Joe. So since Minneapolis announced that they were going to be disbanding their police department, we've gotten literally thousands of calls from the police chiefs we work with to cities that are concerned, activists that are concerned saying, hey, what we really need an imprint or public safety but we are concerned about violence and we are concerned about what happens if we do the right thing and I'm glad that we're talking about this, because -- There's been too much distraction.
SCARBOROUGH: We're having some trouble with Phillip's feed right now and we'll get back to him in a minute. Charlie Sykes, you wrote a powerful column talking about the problem regarding police reform were police unions -- explain that to our viewers?
CHARLIE SYKES: Well, if you're going to be serious about police reform making officers more accountable, getting disciplinary procedures online again, you've got to deal with the excessive power of the police unions. Look, it's interesting the Republicans and conservatives have no problem criticizing other unions including teachers unions but when it comes to police unions there's been kind of a, well, let's turn a blind eye, when Scott Walker here in Wisconsin pushed through his collective bargaining legislation, he exempted the police unions. Look, the problem is that in some cities the unions negotiated contracts that insulate officers from accountability. There's a role for the unions, but I think that you need to get your hands around this particular issue, and I think this is part of the problem of the distraction. It's like, this is a moment where we need to seriously talk about what will it take to reform policing? It's not just going to -- it's not going to happen by pulling down statues and certainly not going to happen by the kinds of, some of the scenes we're seeing in some of these cities, but it does need to have the serious moment where Democrats and Republicans say, okay. Is there something we can do to rebalance the power in the police department. By the way, I just have to say that I think it's important to hold in your mind two ideas that this is an extreme overreach by the federal government when it comes to what's going on in Portland, but also that the violence is counterproductive way more than a distraction. This is exactly what Donald Trump wants. What the protest -- what the violent protesters are doing is providing Donald Trump the viral content that he is counting on to revive his presidential campaign. I just want to lay that out there that there should be no hesitancy in condemning the violence. And that, by the way, is not contradictory to also condemning what's going on with the federal agents. Because I think that's the way most people look at this. Yes, peaceful protests. No, violence. And I think there ought to be real clarity about that.
SCARBOROUGH: And actually Charlie, that's what psychiatrists would call dialectical thinking. You can hold two opinions in your minds that seem contradictory but actually are not contradictory and you can --
SYKES: Not on Twitter.
SCARBOROUGH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Not on Twitter. Exactly. And not in, not in, not in a lot of political space, but you can be horrified by the overreach of Donald Trump and the federal forces in Portland and also be horrified that he's using this as a dress rehearsal for more widespread unrest coming up this fall as we move closer to the election. At the same time, you can be deeply disturbed by the wanton violence, the burning of courthouses, breaking of windows and the other things that are distractions from the larger cause. Philip, we're going to try you again. You can talk about dialectical thinking, you can talk about Portland or talk about your reforms. I think I know which direction you want to go. Go ahead Phillip.
GOFF: I'm going to take option "D" which is all three. So this idea that you can do two things at the same time, that's exactly what I'm hearing from activists, from law enforcement, from concerned mayors. This idea that, look, the way we've been doing public safety hasn't been working. And at the same time, we've got to do any kind of reforms responsibly. So we can't just slash budgets willy nilly because there is real threat of violence. Law enforcement gets trained to protect us. Violence in streets. But they can't protect us from the violence of poverty. So, what we’ve put together in response to our partners is a road map. A policingequity.org/road map. And it's basic, common sense steps for the folks who want to figure out how to move forward, how to be different after this moment without risking violence. That's figuring out what law enforcement should and shouldn't be doing. That's figuring out how you want to deploy law enforcement resources as opposed to other public goods like mental health and substance abuse resources. This idea that there's two different lines here, that there's two different sides, that itself is a distraction. Chiefs, protesters, regular citizens all agree there's a common sense path forward but we should focus more on that than the people who profit off the distraction and the division.
MIKE BARNICLE: But in keeping with the two thoughts at the same time. The first thought is that Maya Wiley pointed out something that should be pointed out continually. That the forces on the ground in Portland are not police officers. It's a federal S.W.A.T. team made up of TSA agents, Customs agents and things like that. So they are totally inexperienced in crowd control, I would think. But Bill Bratton, you mentioned earlier in your comments, in your response to Joe's question, that there are forces within the crowds, the protesters, that are energized by this. Now I know that New York City Police Department has one of the finest intelligence units of any police department in the world. And I'm sure that you speak to these people often, on and off. What do you mean by energized by it, and who are these forces that you're specifically talking about?
BRATTON: Well, there's almost a pattern, Michael, to these events. Portland, night after night, it starts out with very large peaceful demonstrations with the mothers, with the veterans. But something happens in those events. And it's not been reported with any great accuracy that I can see where some in that group then begin vandalizing of the fencing, throwing of the firebombs, the cherry bombs, etc, the firecrackers if you will. That then initiates the response from the federal agents who are there. And it escalates. So the idea is that there are persons within these groups, whether they are organized or individual, that night after night basically spark the violence that we see. New York City had a very bad weekend this weekend after really a significant decrease in violent crime. It had been relatively peaceful demonstrations. This past weekend that changed once again. Vandalism, setting of fires. So there is something going on in terms of my colleagues in policing. Haven't quite got their thumb on it yet as to the obvious behind the scenes group or individuals. Of great concern, however, is that it’s not just the left. It's not just the right. We saw the dueling demonstrators in Louisville, I think it was, with 300 members heavily armed from a black group that showed up to counter a demonstration by 50 heavily armed militia, white militia types. That's the escalation I'm concerned with. We still don't have our arms around what is happening. It's escalating. It's not de-escalating. What I worry about is the idea that this is not going to end on the November elections. That there is so much being stirred up that no matter who is president, we have a country that is basically divided against itself in so many ways and the reforms that the gentleman talked about before, American police chiefs are embracing the idea of reforms we’ve been trying to do that for many years. And what I worry about is what I describe as the etch-a-sketch moment. We don't give enough credit for what's been tried and didn't necessarily have a chance to grow. But we can find common ground here. We must find common ground and a lot of people want to get on common ground but there's a lot of others on the periphery that just want to tear it apart.
SCARBOROUGH: Commissioner Bill Bratton, thank you. Maya Wiley, Reverend Al is with us. I want to throw to him to ask you a question right now. Reverend Al?
AL SHARPTON: Maya, as we battle this police reform, the George Floyd bill pending now, really sitting on Speaker Mcconnell's desk, already passed by the House, many of us trying to pressure Mcconnell to move forward, is it your fear that the activities will take away from legislative change and will affect juries in the trials of those police officers that have been charged in the death of George Floyd and in the death, civilians charged in the death of Arbery? Because at the end of the day, we have real trials and real legislation pending and strategies ought to have that in mind.
WILEY: We must have the reforms that are in that package, and we can't let the politics of division prevent the kind of reform that ensures justice. And I want to take that back though to something that Phil said early which was, you know, what we're doing right now is we're policing poverty rather than problem solving it. And the nex piece that has to happen, we have to have that accountability because without it, we will not have trust from the community. And that includes racial profiling, so when I say we are policing poverty, that's part of what racial profiling represents. And here in New York City, you know, we have a police commissioner who is talking about bail reform, criminal justice reform as the problem when the reality is he's not talking about 2,500 more stop and frisks that happened in black and brown communities last year, an uptick after the city had been working so hard, as Commissioner Bratton said, to institute reforms. So we also have to figure out how we're investing in crisis management in our communities. I know you're going to do an important and a tragic funeral for a 1-year-old who was shot in Bedsty. I went to the reviewing yesterday. All I could think about was the guns that are on the streets that are not being removed is a problem solving approach rather than thinking -- and it's easier to get a gun than a job when you're in Brownsville Brooklyn or south bronx or in any poor black and Latino community in the country. And those are the statistics that we know are what contributes to the shootings we see so we need that reform and we need to problem solve poverty.