David Milliband calls for UK to respond to "very aggressive" US unrest

2 June 2020, 15:58

By Fiona Jones

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for Western countries to respond to US unrest after Donald Trump used "very aggressive" tactics to disperse peaceful protestors in order to "stage a political photo opportunity."

Yesterday, US police used tear gas to clear Black Lives Matter protesters from outside the White House so that the President could leave to go to a local church, where he stood holding a bible while his picture was taken.

The Right Rev Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, branded the President's visit as an opportunity to use the church as a "backdrop" and a Bible "as a prop."

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband observed that the prior scene, which saw the peaceful protest being dispersed by "very aggressive military-style tactics" left him with his heart in his mouth because "these were peaceful protests and I know there are people from our offices around America going on peaceful protests about police violence."

"Three times as many black people are killed by the police per head of population as white people in America. Then to see that this was being done in order to stage or mount a political photo opportunity..."

Mr Miliband, who lives in New York, commented on the social climate: "What struck me is there's not much us in the US at the moment, there's a lot of us and them and there's not much us. That is dangerous for a country...because it strains the fabric that holds a country together.

David Milliband calls for UK to respond to "very aggressive" US unrest
David Milliband calls for UK to respond to "very aggressive" US unrest. Picture: PA

"This country is different from the UK in all sorts of ways, one is that it's huge, it has three time zones, it's a continent really as much as it is a country. That sense of strain on the us and the exacerbation on the us and them is very striking, very dangerous."

Shelagh agreed, pointing to the attacks on the media: "Physical very violent attacks, pointless arrests of journalists who are making it known peacefully that they are journalists."

"Liberal democracy is built on the independence of judiciary, freedom of the press, the legitimacy of elections, the constraint on the use of violence," Mr Miliband said, "and what we're seeing in America is those things being strained in a very serious way."

Shelagh asked the former Foreign Secretary what he expected to see from the UK government as a response.

The Former Foreign Secretary said, "It is incumbent on us to recognise that the fate of America is important to us and that means the ideals of America are worth pointing to, that the gap between ideals and reality is something that can't be shielded and shouldn't be ignored, and that the fate of America...are important for all Western, demographic countries.

"This is an important time to emphasise America's role in the global system, its alliances that are based on values and not just on history, and the fact that the world wants America to live up to its ideals."