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Week In Politics: Protests Erupt Nationwide For Deaths Of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor


A bruising week in America, and many more protests are planned for today from Seattle to Jacksonville. Of course, America also passed the mark of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths this week, but President Trump often fulminated about mail-in ballots and Twitter. We're joined now, as we are most Saturdays, by NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And let's begin with the protests this week over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both involving local police. We've heard about the clashes between police, protesters, even in front of the White House, burning a police station, other unrest. The president doesn't seem to consider these police killings national issues.

ELVING: But he has to know they are national issues, Scott. The unrest has spread from Minneapolis and Louisville to many cities around the country, and even last night to the nation's capital and the street outside the White House.

So the president's been going through some major mood swings on this on Twitter. Yesterday morning, he spoke of looting leads to shooting, then in the afternoon, a more measured tone. And then again this morning, after protests last night outside the White House, the president was very much back on the warpath, warning any "protesters" - in quotation marks - who've got too risky or out of line that the Secret Service would come down on them hard, and they wouldn't know what hit them. And he also said that anyone who came back and tried to breach the fence was going to find the most vicious dogs and the most ominous weapons that he had ever seen. So the president is back in a bellicose mood.

SIMON: We're seeing this explosion of rage and frustration as these killings occurred and these deaths occurred in communities of color during a pandemic that has hardest hit those very same communities, which have also suffered the largest job losses.

ELVING: What we're seeing is outrage in national terms but also in cumulative terms. We've talked for weeks now about how essential workers are disproportionately people of color and how those who have had less health care throughout their lives are, likewise, disproportionately people of color. And is it a coincidence all these uprisings are happening now, or did these horrific videos from Minneapolis surface something that's been building for weeks, for months, for years and even longer?

SIMON: In his appearance yesterday, the president zeroed in on China. He criticized China for extinguishing the last of existing freedoms in Hong Kong. He blamed China for letting the coronavirus outbreak become a worldwide pandemic. He also said the U.S. will cut ties with the World Health Organization. He did not in those remarks mention the protests. And, in fact, no mention of the pandemic here and the economic hardships that are hitting millions of Americans. And he took no questions.

ELVING: You know, right from the beginning of that event, it seemed clear there would be no questions just from the way everyone lined up. The occasion for pouncing on China, of course, was Beijing's reneging on its Hong Kong agreements, denying Hong Kong its special status and relative independence. But the president went well beyond that issue to villainize China for its handling of the coronavirus back at the beginning of the year, back during the winter, and to justify cutting U.S. ties totally to the World Health Organization in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

So, look; it's pretty obvious there's a need for fresh villains here because this pandemic is far from over. We're reopening the economy, but the disease is still out there. California Thursday recorded a big spike in confirmed cases. So have a number of other states - in some cases, their biggest new days report of new cases yet. So here we are, and we are reopening more and more and more states and cities even as the caseload in some places is increasing.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks. Thanks very much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.