Why it matters that the suspected Iowa cop killer had a Donald Trump sign in his yard
Early Wednesday morning, Scott Greene allegedly ambushed and murdered two Iowa police officers in two separate incidents. Greene turned himself in later that day at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and on Thursday afternoon, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. His motives remain unclear, but a lot has been made of a Donald Trump sign on the alleged Iowa shooter’s lawn indicating his presidential choice.
Trump has, if anything, aligned himself with the “Blue Lives Matter” faction and consistently promoted the inaccurate and racist narrative that Black Lives Matter activists are responsible for violence toward police, and hasn’t condoned violence toward cops. However, not only has Trump consistently advocated for wider access to guns, which potentially enabled Greene, but Trump has also glorified violence among his supporters.
Worth noting, of course, is that Greene shares the Urbandale house with the displayed Trump sign with his mother, so it could be her sign and not her son’s. But if the sign indicates anything about Greene’s own political views, it certainly matters and shouldn’t be dismissed or taken lightly as we consider the attitudes that potentially motivated Greene’s alleged actions. For starters, Greene’s previous run-ins with police match many Trump supporters’ racist sentiments.
They include an incident about two weeks ago, when police told him to leave a high school football game, where he waved a Confederate flag in front of people of color during the national anthem, CNN reports, and in 2014, when he was arrested for calling a stranger the N-word and threatening to kill him.
Throughout election season, Trump’s rallies have been the sites of violent confrontations between supporters and protesters, most notably between his white male supporters and protesters of color. For his own part, Trump earlier this year declared that he would pay the legal fees of any of his supporters who roughed up protesters, suggesting his supporters “knock the crap out of them,” and claimed he missed “the good old days” when you could just hit people. Additionally, there have been cases of his supporters allegedly sexually assaulting a young woman protesting Trump, and last year, of Trump supporters beating and urinating on a homeless Mexican man.
This advocacy for violence and intimidation, paired with Trump’s racist and condescending rhetoric about minorities, has inspired mass numbers of Trump supporters to plan a large-scale voter suppression effort against minorities via KKK-esque intimidation methods. If Greene is, indeed, a Trump supporter, as the sign on his lawn would suggest, it’s not unreasonable to assume Trump’s racially divisive rhetoric affected him at least on some level as he procured a Confederate flag and attempted to intimidate nonwhite people at a high school football game with it.
The connection between Greene’s apparent racism and his alleged decision to attack police remains somewhat mysterious. However, it can’t be ignored that Trump, in doggedly advancing the narrative that authority figures have rigged the system, is at least on some level encouraging his supporters to defy biased authority figures and take matters into their own hands. If Greene perceived police officers as authority figures biased against him and infringing on his “right” to bear a Confederate flag, indirectly following Trump’s logic, he would believe it was justified to retaliate against police.
The dialogue between Greene and a police officer at the Urbandale high school football game Greene attended is very telling. Greene claimed in a video he posted online following the incident that the police had violated his civil rights and claimed the interaction was “an assault on a person exercising his constitution rights on free speech.” But in a comment on the same video, Greene claimed he “was offended by the blacks sitting through our anthem.” He said, “Thousands more whites fought and died for their freedom. However, this is not about the armed forces, they are cop-haters.”
There’s a twisted irony in Greene accusing black people of being “cop-haters” and going on to allegedly murder two.
His actions were potentially motivated by a desire for retribution after police removed him from the game despite his proclamations that waving the Confederate flag was his right. “That is going to cause a disturbance whether you intend to or not, whether it is your right or not,” a cop told Greene at the time.
Polarizing racial attitudes propagated by Trump throughout the election season — from speeches implying the inferiority of African-Americans to portrayals of black people as criminals and Mexicans as rapists and murderers — and his bold encouragement of violence and for his supporters to take things into their own hands, very possibly contributed to Greene’s actions, if he is indeed guilty of shooting the two police officers.
Just as irony exists in how, in many cases, conservatives claiming to support police have consistently opposed funding for 9/11 first responders, it also exists in Trump and his supporters associating Black Lives Matter with police killings, violence, and hatred, only for one of Trump’s white supporters to allegedly murder two.
Trump, for his own part, has responded with a tweet praying for the families of the two officers. “An attack on those who keep us safe is an attack on us all,” he wrote. Trump has yet to comment on Greene’s apparent support for him, but no matter how he responds and how adamantly he distances himself from the misdeeds of his supporters, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that his rhetoric is affecting people and has the potential to bring out the worst in those who support him.