Pompeo: US response to Floyd protests a ‘stark contrast’ to authoritarian regimes
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week sought to contrast the U.S. government’s response to the George Floyd protests with those of authoritarian regimes by arguing that the demonstrations show the strength of democratic principles.
“The American response to events of these past weeks presents a stark contrast to what happens in totalitarian regimes around the world,” Pompeo wrote in a Wednesday email to State Department staff obtained by The Hill.
“We must reject unequivocally the false charges – many of them vile propaganda emanating from China, Iran and other autocracies – questioning America’s credibility in promoting human rights and democracy abroad,” he added.
Pompeo’s message was his first to State Department staff directly addressing Floyd’s death, the mass protests in the U.S. and solidarity marches around the world.
His remarks also come amid growing controversy over the use of chemical agents to clear protesters near the White House shortly before President Trump walked to a church for a photo opportunity.
Several Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation into the matter, saying the White House violated protesters’ First Amendment rights.
The clearing of protesters also spurred calls for an investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“It is time the United States face the same scrutiny and judgement it is quick to pass on to other countries,” said Jamil Dakwar with the American Civil Liberties Union, which made the request to the U.N.
Pompeo’s message, which followed internal frustration over a lack of response to the protests, repeatedly argued that Floyd’s death and subsequent outrage would have been handled differently elsewhere.
“In the United States, when police act in a manner inconsistent with the laws they are sworn to uphold, the press covers the events and the criminal justice system investigates, brings charges, and goes to court to seek justice on behalf of the victims. In autocracies, police are accountable only to the ruling party,” he wrote.
“In the United States, when the people demand change or security or prosperity, politicians listen. In autocracies, the people don’t make demands of government for fear of being officially denounced, locked up, or executed,” he added. “We can champion human rights and fundamental freedoms abroad because they are the high standards to which we hold ourselves.”
But the U.S. image has nonetheless taken a hit abroad.
The State Department has also been under increasing pressure to diversify its staff, particularly among its highest ranks.
The American Academy of Diplomacy, a nonpartisan group of former senior State Department officials, said the protests “remind us that America cannot lead the world unless at home we live up to the values we so proudly defend abroad.” The group called for the agency to take immediate action on steps to improve diversity among its ranks.
Pompeo defended the agency’s record in a press briefing Wednesday, saying he has focused on bringing talent “from all across the country of every race, of every nature, of every political persuasion to bring them here, to execute America’s diplomatic mission.”