In a tweet last Tuesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said: “They just wanted to storm the place like the East German Stasi. This is in my opinion the most defining moment of the Joe Biden presidency. Before this, it would have been Afghanistan.” The FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago was part of its investigation into what happened concerning Trump’s involvement with the January 6 insurrection. This was a legal move by law enforcement agencies, not a political one. It is certainly not an example of the Stasi or any other authoritarian regime. Joe Biden is the president of the United States, but he has no authority to order an FBI raid. The FBI’s investigation into Trump was not politically motivated; it was a legal move by law enforcement agencies, not a political one.
The FBI cannot search your property unless a federal judge signs a warrant authorizing that search. They can’t just barge in without probable cause. The head of the FBI is Christopher Wray who was appointed by Donald Trump. For a federal judge to agree to a search at the home of a former president is unheard of, suggesting he was incredibly confident that evidence of criminal activity involving the January 6 insurrection would be found there. In addition, this investigation was not the first one into Trump’s campaign. The DOJ also investigated Russian interference in our elections and whether that interference was related to the Trump campaign. Of course, we now know it was – according to Mueller’s investigation.
It’s not accurate to compare the FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate to East Germany’s Stasi. The Stasi was known for using torture to extract confessions — and it was so notorious that its name became synonymous with political repression and surveillance. “The Stasi” were notorious for its oppression of citizens.
So no, this isn’t “the Stasi” storming into Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate—it’s just an agency investigating possible criminal activity by a person who has repeatedly shown himself unwilling (or unable) to conduct himself in accordance with American laws. Trump is no victim — only a victim of his own ignorance and arrogance. There has been a long history of Trump bragging about how he intimidates people using mob-style tactics. He proudly bragged on the campaign trail that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing support from his base—and then when asked about it later, said he was just being sarcastic. He has also made numerous threats against political rivals, reporters, and foreign governments. So when Donald Trump’s supporters accuse the FBI of “storming” into his Mar-a-Lago estate like the Stasi, it’s a little silly — because his supporters know exactly what they’re doing. Moreover, they are not simply blowing smoke: They are actively undermining our democratic process.
In light of the right’s support for law enforcement and the goal of them doing their jobs properly, it’s understandable that such criticism might seem out of place. But when it comes down to picking sides in this political climate — where all too often people are treated differently based on their race — we must ask ourselves: Who is actually being policed? The answer is clear: People of color, immigrants, and 2SLGBTQIA+ people are being policed. They are being harassed by police officers who often perceive them as threats to public safety based on their race or gender identity alone. And this policing is not only happening in the streets — it’s happening online too.
As people of color, we’ve long been the victims of systemic oppression, and there’s nothing wrong with being angry about it. White people need to be careful about co-opting movements for their own personal gain, especially when they are coming from lawmakers like Gaetz. When Gaetz uses words like “defund law enforcement”, he is co-opting the systemic oppression of Black and brown people for his own political gain. Gaetz has played on the fears of his white conservative base by using the language of systemic oppression to gain votes. The idea that the police are a force for good is one that many white people have bought into. But for Black and brown people, it’s not so simple. We know all too well what it’s like to be profiled by law enforcement or fear being randomly stopped on the street by an officer who could kill us at any moment. Black Americans are three times more likely than whites to be killed by police officers while unarmed. Therefore, Gaetz is using the suffering of communities that have been targeted by a racist system in order to push his own agenda. And while he may not be actively calling for people of color to be killed, it’s important to recognize the ways that his words can still be dangerous—especially when they are coming from someone who (unfortunately) holds such power and influence over our country’s laws.
When Gaetz calls for a “defunding of law enforcement,” he is trying to minimize the impact of those who are actually oppressed—people of color. The FBI raided President Trump’s house legally, but that doesn’t mean law enforcement abusing Black and brown people is ever justified. Furthermore, Gaetz’s words imply that it’s the people of color who are at fault rather than racism itself. We must not let the words of the right or Trump Republicans distract us from the very real issue of racism in America. The problem isn’t just Trump or Gaetz; it’s a system that continuously fails Black and brown people at every level.
Gaetz is co-opting language from a movement against police violence and making it sound like a way to take down law enforcement. This is language that has been used against Black and brown people. He says “defund law enforcement” but he doesn’t mean no police violence. He means defunding law enforcement of their power. And this isn’t the same thing as defunding the police.
When progressives say “defund the police” we mean we should be seeking to deprive the police of the resources they need to engage in surveillance and harassment, especially of Black and brown, poor and working-class communities. This is because we know that a strong and well-resourced police force can be an engine for injustice in our society. We must reduce the amount of money that goes towards funding the police and law enforcement because these funds could be better spent on other things, such as education or healthcare.
A large part of the problem with American policing is that it is too heavily militarized which has led to an unnecessary escalation of force on part of officers, which in turn leads to more violence and aggression against civilians. The police force is also disproportionately made up of white people, who are more likely to be violent toward people of color. Most importantly, police forces have been given too much power and are not held accountable for their actions.
The fact that Gaetz can co-opt systemic oppression in order to justify his own racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric is deeply troubling.
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