Less than a month after Donald Trump deployed federal agents to Portland to beat back protesters near a federal courthouse, the White House has issued a statement calling on the Belarusian government to refrain from using force against peaceful protesters.
Protests in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, broke out after the country’s autocratic president Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected with 80 per cent of the vote.
Protesters and opposition party members claim the election was rigged, and pointed to the government’s denial of election observers as evidence that the process was not legitimate.
Police used tear gas, grenades and water cannon against the protesters to quell the protests. As of Monday, the streets of Minsk are quiet.
Mr Lukashenko has held power in Belarus since 1994.
During a press briefing on Monday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House Press Secretary, was asked if the president had any comment on the violence and claims of election fraud in Belarus.
“We are looking at that and were deeply concerned by the Belarus presidential election. Severe restrictions on ballot access for candidates, prohibition of local independent observers at polling stations, intimidation of opposition candidates and the detention of peaceful protesters and journalists have marred the process and we urge the Belarusian government to respect the right to peaceably assemble and to refrain from use of force,” she said.
Asked about the protests over the Belarus presidential election, McEnany says the Trump administration is “deeply concerned” about “severe restrictions on ballot access,” “intimidation of opposition candidates” and “detention of peaceful protesters” https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/12rMHVpcYq— CBS News (@CBSNews)August 10, 2020
In late July, Ms McEnany showed a video, widely compared to state propaganda, which showed protesters and police clashing in Portland in an attempt to paint the protests as violent uprisings.
Protesters in Portland have claimed that it was federal agents who instigated and amplified violence in the city. The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, called on federal troops to leave the city multiple times.
Ms McEnany previously supported the heavy-handed response of federal officers in Portland.
“The federal government has a sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States through field offices and federal facilities across the country,” she said. “These are not the actions of so-called peaceful protesters in the Trump administration will not stand by and allow anarchy in our streets.”
Police and federal troops have used rubber bullets to shoot protesters, blowing out the eyes and cracking the skulls of some individuals and have detained journalists — including the Independent‘s own Andrew Buncombe — in the course of responding to the George Floyd protests that have raged since May.
Mr Lukashenko dismissed his opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s, calls for him to step down amid the protests, claiming she was a “poor little girl” who was being controlled by foreign “puppet masters”.
The Belarusian president called the protesters “sheep” and vowed they would not tear the country apart.
“They are trying to orchestrate mayhem,” Mr Lukashenko said. “But I have already warned: there will be no revolution.”