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Trump’s tough talk on crime leaves African Americans cold

CHICAGO (AFP) – 

“Law and order” has been a central theme in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. But the term has deep-rooted racial connotations in the United States that give many African Americans pause.

In pledging to get tough on crime, the Republican nominee has invoked Chicago, the third largest US city, which is blighted by a seemingly out-of-control epidemic of gun violence.

There have been 579 murders in the city so far this year — more than New York and Los Angeles combined — and 3,413 shooting victims, according to the Chicago Tribune newspaper.

Trump’s tough-on-crime stance includes employing the controversial “stop and frisk” tactic in Chicago, in which police officers can stop anyone and search them, whether or not they are suspected of committing a crime or infraction.

“You have to do something. It can’t continue the way it’s going,” Trump argued last month in support of the practice.

But those comments have been met with sharp rebukes in Chicago, where “stop and frisk” has been tried before — and was found to disproportionately target black people.

“We are not interested in any strategy that involves compromising the civil rights of citizens,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement.

“It’s also not very effective,” added Robin Robinson, a community relations advisor to the police department. “It would effectively drive black people and people of law enforcement further apart,” said Robinson, who is black.

Jedidiah Brown, a Chicago community activist also believes the strategy would be counterproductive.

“In order for you to solve crimes,” Brown said, “You have to have relationships, people willing to talk to you, trust you, and tell you who the perpetrators are.”

Trump has credited “stop and frisk” with reducing crime in New York. But a federal judge ruled that New York’s policy was unconstitutional and a new mayor, Bill de Blasio, ended it.

In Chicago, as recently as 2014, police stopped 250,000 people who were not charged with any crime or given a ticket, according to Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A vast majority of them were black.

The ACLU reached agreement last year with Chicago police to end the practice.

“The notion that to go back to the old system that you simply stop people for being present in their neighborhoods, is going backwards,” said Ed Yohnka, an ACLU spokesman.

– ‘Chiraq’ –

Still, many African-Americans in Chicago want improved policing to combat rising crime.

While some Chicagoans have criticized Trump for comparing the city’s violence to that of war-torn countries, its own youth have dubbed it “Chiraq,” an amalgamation of Chicago and Iraq.

“Whole communities are like third-world countries,” said Michael Pfleger, a longtime pastor of a church in one of the most violence-plagued areas of Chicago.

“The despair and the anger, I’ve never seen it as bad as it is right now. You have whole communities held hostage by fear.”

So what to make, then, of the fact that just four percent of African Americans nationally support Trump, according to a Los Angeles Times/USC tracking poll.

Trump even polls higher among Latinos — currently around 20 percent — despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Khalil Muhammad of Harvard University said that to understand Trump’s lack of support among African Americans, look no further than his use of the term “law and order.”

The phrase carries echoes of the late-1960s backlash against the American civil rights movement, he said.

“Much of the civil rights activism that took place in the 1950s… the southern criminal justice system used the rhetoric of ‘law and order’ to delegitimize activism on the ground,” Muhammad said.

Richard Nixon successfully took up that mantra to win the 1968 presidential race. Trump has reportedly studied Nixon’s campaign as a lesson for his own.

– Black Lives Matter –

On top of that, Trump has been critical of the nascent Black Lives Matter movement, which sprung up to demand change in policing across the country, after a string of high-profile police shootings of black citizens.

A series of graphic videos of police shootings this summer inflamed racial tensions. Officers were killed by gunmen in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in apparent retribution.

Donald Trump has blamed Black Lives Matter activists — mostly young people who have protested in marches and rallies — for hampering law enforcement. He has described the movement as a “threat” and said its rhetoric may have instigated violence against police.

But failure to address the issues raised by Black Lives Matter activists is a losing strategy for Trump, said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University and author of “America Divided,” a book examining 1960s US history.

He said the movement is taking up unresolved grievances from the civil rights era, when the Black Panthers employed armed citizen patrols to monitor police interactions with black citizens.

African Americans today want reform in the criminal justice system — such as changes to drug sentencing laws — where they make up a third of the prison population but only 12 percent of the total US population.

Trump, he said, “is not trying to talk to African Americans in a way that could conceivably win their votes.”

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161016-trumps-tough-talk-crime-leaves-african-americans-cold