GOP leaders stand by protesters in Hong Kong but attack them in the US

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Republican Reps. Tom Emmer and Steve Scalise refused to condemn attacks on peaceful American protesters.

Two Republican House leaders, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer, criticized the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters in Hong Kong just last year. But each of them praised the same tactics when they were ordered by the Trump administration on Monday night.

On Tuesday, the day after the administration ordered the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a crowd of peaceful protesters from the front of the White House so Trump could walk across the street for a photo-op, Scalise (LA) and Emmer (MN) were asked by Politico about the Trump administration's handling of "racial tensions."

Both men were "mostly unbending in their defense of Trump," Politico reported, adding they both "brushed aside complaints" about the tactics used by federal law enforcement personnel to clear away protesters.

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The gathering at the White House was part of nationwide protests against racist police brutality, which were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, a black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Emmer, who leads the GOP effort to regain control of the House, said that "law and order is going to be, is going to be an issue," adding that "I think that issue is going to benefit the president and Republican campaigns."

Scalise, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House, defended the use of force by saying that presidents always have some level of security around them.

The refusal to stand up for peaceful American protesters was in stark contrast to their votes to defend peaceful protesters in Hong Kong last year.

In October 2019, both men supported a resolution declaring the rights of the people of Hong Kong to peacefully assemble and protest.

The resolution, which passed by voice vote, specifically called out "the police's excessive use of force on June 12, 2019, as seen in video footage, to disperse the protestors, including the use of tear gas, bean bag rounds, rubber bullets, batons, and pepper spray, caused severe injuries to protesters."

It also condemned "the Hong Kong police's use of force against the demonstrators in ways that are inconsistent with international standards."

The protests in Hong Kong focused on a legislative attempt to allow extradition to China as well as issues of police violence.

In November 2019, both Emmer and Scalise voted for a bill to restrict the sale of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong in order to prevent the police from using it. The bill included specific references to tear gas, pepper spray, and pepper balls.

When asked to comment, a spokesperson from Scalise's office claimed that tear gas was not used on Monday night. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the chemicals used Monday night qualify as tear gas. The spokesperson also claimed the protest was not peaceful, though videos of the event show it was peaceful until the protesters were confronted by law enforcement officers.

Emmer's office did not respond to a request for comment.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.