Trump Tweets Fifteen ‘Wanted’ Posters of Mostly Minority Protesters for ‘Vandalism,’ Statue-Toppling
Saturday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted a series of fifteen “wanted” posters from “The United States Park Police, in conjunction with the FBI Washington Field Office’s Violent Crimes Task Force,” each showing a photo of someone who had allegedly been involved with vandalism in Washington, D.C. that occurred during recent protests.
The text on the posters had large headlines that read “ATTEMPT TO IDENTIFY” and the main text stated that they were “attempting to identify several individuals who are responsible for vandalizing federal property at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC,” detailing an incidence where “a group of individuals vandalized the Andrew Jackson statute” in that park on the evening on June 22.
The poster lists several phone numbers and an email address where tips could be submitted, and then ends with, “This bulletin does not constitute probable cause to arrest.”
As of 7:00 p.m. ET, Trump had tweeted fifteen of these posters, at least half of which appeared to show photos of minorities. The three tweets below are a representative sample:
Trump’s tweets swiftly drew outrage, with many observing as reporter Andrew Feinberg did that Trump was risking getting “someone hurt or killed by vigilantes.” As Feinberg correctly pointed out, these individuals had “at most, allegedly committed (or attempted) vandalism.”
President @realDonaldTrump is tweeting out a bunch of “wanted” posters of (mostly black/brown) people who, at most, allegedly committed (or attempted) vandalism. He’s either going to get someone hurt/killed by vigilantes or get the USPP/FBI tip lines flooded w/ bad info, or both.
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) June 27, 2020
If anyone gets doxed by his little stunt we should make sure they have a GoFundMe set up immediately.
— Liz Jenkins (@ej11lizzie) June 27, 2020
On Friday, Trump had tweeted a FBI wanted poster that showed all fifteen of the suspects’ photos together, declaring “10 year prison sentences!” for the accused vandals.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2020
The president boasts a staggering crowd of more than 82.5 million Twitter followers, so when he tweets something, it gets noticed. Worries about Trump’s tweets sparking vigilantism are not unwarranted.
The fact that the posters say they do “not constitute probable cause to arrest” in small print near the bottom is not the strongest guarantee, and if the president truly wanted to let the authorities handle this, he would have no need to post these tweets. The most reasonable (and obvious) interpretation of why Trump sent these tweets to his followers — especially when he posted the individual posters one by one Saturday — is that he wants his individual followers to find these people for him.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org