TOM LEONARD: This perfect storm has the power to destroy Donald Trump

TOM LEONARD: After seven nights of pitched battles across the US, this perfect storm has the power to destroy Donald Trump

Rows of burnt-out police cars, their sides scrawled with obscene graffiti, grimly illustrate the ferocity of the anger.

Entire neighbourhoods of looted shops and businesses tell another story – of the extent to which law and order has broken down.

A British tourist returning yesterday to SoHo, Manhattan’s trendiest shopping district, would not have recognised it – luxury store after luxury store, including Apple, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, has been picked clean and covered in broken glass.

Protesters were seen lighting a dumpster on fire in New York. Trump’s one hope must be that the level of the anarchy will disgust voters to the extent that the focus of the story turns to law and order – much more to his liking

The unrest across the US sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd as he was arrested by police in Minneapolis has jerked America and the wider world out of the torpor of lockdown.

After seven nights of pitched battles between protesters and riot police using tear gas and rubber bullets, the violence shows little sign of slackening. What some are calling an ‘uprising’ constitutes the worst civil unrest since the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.

And where is the US President? Doing what he does best – throwing petrol on the flames. 

Donald Trump has been tweeting out violent defiance, though his tough-guy image was dented by the revelation that his Secret Service bodyguards were so alarmed when a 1,000-strong demonstration gathered outside the White House, they bundled him down to a fortified underground bunker for his protection.

A British tourist returning yesterday to SoHo, Manhattan’s trendiest shopping district, would not have recognised it – luxury store after luxury store, including Apple, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel, has been picked clean and covered in broken glass

It made a change from Trump’s bungling response to coronavirus. 

He has spent weeks dangerously contradicting his health experts and scientists by supporting calls for an end to the lockdown that has crippled the US economy and his hopes of re-election.

Streets that were tragically empty a few weeks ago are now thronged – but this wasn’t the end to social distancing Trump had in mind. America is now engulfed in two crises: Coronavirus and the protests. They are feeding off each other and may yet provide the perfect storm that blows him out of the White House.

Trump’s hopes of winning a second term against likely Democrat opponent Joe Biden were always going to rely on voters forgetting his volatile personality and imbecilic behaviour, and seeing a country in decent economic fettle under his presidency.

Instead, Americans have been shown a president who falls to pieces when the chips are down.

The unrest across the US sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd as he was arrested by police in Minneapolis has jerked America and the wider world out of the torpor of lockdown. Minneapolis is seen above after rioting

And they’re really down now. Coronavirus is crucial in explaining the visceral outrage over the death of 46-year-old Mr Floyd. 

In recent years, the deaths of a string of African-Americans in encounters with the police have sparked demonstrations and sometimes violence – but nothing on this scale.

What’s glaringly different now is the pandemic, which has killed more than 100,000 and particularly devastated the black population – highlighting, say activists, how they are second-class citizens.

African-Americans generally have worse health care and nutrition, making them susceptible to issues such as obesity that can prove deadly if they have Covid-19. 

Many have jobs that mean they continue to come into contact with other people, again increasing the chance of infection.

They’ve also been especially hard hit as millions have been laid off in a country which offers little in the way of a safety net.

Even before Mr Floyd died, pundits had asked if Trump’s reaction to coronavirus hadn’t already doomed his re-election chances.

His daily press briefings have been almost comically awful. On Twitter, he contradicts himself, urging the US to reopen for business even as he agrees the country should remain in lockdown.

The latest opinion poll, released on Sunday, gives Biden a ten-point lead. Given that the Democrat has barely said a word for weeks, you have to conclude that voters are simply going off Trump.

A burnt out car is pictured in Minneapolis. In recent years, the deaths of a string of African-Americans in encounters with the police have sparked demonstrations and sometimes violence – but nothing on this scale

Americans are used to presidents offering consolation at times of trauma. Trump prefers confrontation. He tweeted last Friday that the military was ready to step in in Minneapolis and that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. 

On Saturday, he warned that protesters outside the White House faced ‘vicious dogs and ominous weapons’.

Trump’s one hope must be that the level of the anarchy will disgust voters to the extent that the focus of the story turns to law and order – much more to his liking.

Black leaders are strenuously distancing themselves from any of the violence, which many (including Trump) believe has been stoked by extremists who want to set America on fire. Even so, an underground bunker may not be enough to protect the Trump presidency in its crisis hour.

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