‘The squad’ won’t back down from Trump’s attacks

The white supremacist, misogynist U.S. President Donald Trump continued his racist tirade for a second week in a row against “The Squad,” as the four Congresswomen of color proudly call themselves. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) are Puerto Rican, Somali, African-American and Palestinian, respectively. 

Trump had stated that all four women should “go back where they came from” for criticizing U.S. policies. Both Reps. Omar and Tlaib are Muslim, and Rep. Omar consistently wears a hijab. Of the four, only Rep. Omar was born outside the U.S. 

The outspoken Congressmembers brought on the ire of Trump not for their nationalities and gender, but especially for coming to the political defense of migrants, including children, being held under inhumane conditions in detention camps. Dozens of detainees have died in these concentration camps. Their main crime? They were forced to leave their homelands, whose economies have been torn asunder by U.S. imperialist super-exploitation and plunder. 

The four held a national joint press conference on July 15 in Washington, D.C., accusing Trump of promoting white nationalism to divide the population along racial lines. Following the press conference, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution 240-187 on July 16 condemning Trump’s racist remarks. (WW, July 18)

Rep. Tlaib described how proud she was of her Palestinian immigrant parents and of growing up in her district of Detroit: “The city that birthed movements that fought and won against racism and inequality in our country. A city that taught me to never back down, to speak up when I see injustice, and one that elected the first of two Muslim women serving in the United States Congress.” (Detroit News, July 16)

At an overwhelmingly white rally in Greenville, N.C., on July 17, while attacking all four women as being “unpatriotic,” Trump singled out Rep. Omar for his most xenophobic rhetoric. The crowd, which had an openly lynch-mob mentality, started to simultaneously chant, “Send her back.” Trump claimed on July 18 that he didn’t agree with the chant, but the fact is that he stood silent for at least 13 seconds before he started speaking again. 

His ambivalent stance on July 17 was very reminiscent of how he reacted to the violent neo-fascist mobilization that resulted in the murder of white anti-racist activist Heather Heyer by a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. At first, Trump tried to distance himself from the neo-fascists, but did an immediate aboutface. Saying that “both sides were equally to blame,” he put an equal sign between the violence of the neo-fascists and the justified, united resistance of the anti-fascists. 

Trump’s racist and sexist attacks on the four Congresspeople is unleashing violent attacks on them in social media. A white Gretna, La., cop openingly stated on his Facebook page that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is an “idiot” who should be shot, saying she deserved a “round” —  and he was not referring to her days as a bartender. Gretna’s police chief stated that the post was “disturbing” but didn’t perceive it as a “threat.” (The Times-Picayune, July 22) 

This latest social media attack comes on the heels of border patrol agents having photoshopped images depicting the gang-rape of Ocasio-Cortez on their Facebook page — an act which the Department of Homeland Security has been silent about. 

Grassroots support for the Squad

There has been overwhelming support for the four in their respective states. When Rep. Omar returned to her district in Twin Cities, Minn., on July 19, she was greeted with cheers and hugs from hundreds of multinational supporters at the airport. Using a bullhorn, Omar told the crowd: “When I said I was the president’s nightmare, well you’re watching it now. We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president, because his policies are a nightmare to us. And we are not deterred, we are not frightened, we are ready.” (New York Times, July 19)

Asma Mohammed, the advocacy director for Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment in North Minneapolis and an organizer of the airport rally, stated in the Times article, “Trump is working to make Muslims, immigrants, refugees and people of color feel afraid because he’s afraid of our collective power, and he’s emboldened white nationalists in the process by making the conversation about who belongs here and who doesn’t.” 

On the same day, Rep. Omar spoke to a packed, predominantly Black crowd at a town hall meeting in Minneapolis about her support for Medicare for All, adding that she refuses to be “distracted” by Trump. 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, affectionately known as AOC, held a pro-immigrant rally in her district of Queens, N.Y., on July 20 that drew hundreds of people. She commented on Trump at the rally: “He is using racism, he is stoking white supremacy, and he is allowing, frankly, a neo-Nazi group to go off unchecked because that is a key part of ‘rousing his base.’” (Common Dreams, July 20)

She spoke against the criminalization of human beings happening in  detention camps and in support of mental health services that migrant children desperately need. 

The four Congresspeople deserve to be defended not because they are in the Democratic Party — which includes right-wing forces who are also complicit in racism — but because they are women of color who have taken a courageous position against Trump’s racist strategy to divide and conquer the global working class. 

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