Two Republican lawmakers on Monday threw in with President Donald Trump's aggressive rhetoric in response to the protests and unrest triggered by the killing of George Floyd and the abuse by police, escalating to apparent calls for outright killing.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) was the first to go to this extreme, calling for the military to be brought in to end rioting and looting. He declared the riots to be the work of "Antifa terrorists," despite the fact that the label is only a loose term embraced by some individuals and not an actual organization. Then he issued a truly dangerous threat:
As conservative pundit David French noted, calling for the military to act under a "no quarter" order — meaning taking no prisoners and simply killing — is a war crime.
Cotton later seemed to walk his statement back, suggesting he was only using the term metaphorically. But the using the term as a metaphor comes from its usage in the military context, which Cotton was using, and in which its meaning is literal. Meanwhile, even using Cotton's preferred metaphorical definition is disturbing: "If you say that someone was given no quarter, you mean that they were not treated kindly by someone who had power or control over them."
In the context of military use of force against civilians, this is a call for brutality.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) was even more explicit, saying in a tweet:
Again, because "Antifa" is a loose label, this proposition is extremely dangerous. It essentially allows the government to designate any members of protests groups it disfavors as "Antifa" and subject them to the treatment of "terrorists." In the Middle East, of course, the United States often kills targets deemed terrorists with drones; there's no due process and few safeguards. This policy is, naturally, highly contested and deeply disturbing in practice. But the legal justification for it relies on a clear distinction for "terrorists" who are outside the U.S. legal jurisdiction. Gaetz seems to be proposing eliminating this distinction. Like Trump, he seemed much less concerned with the armed right-wing anti-lockdown protesters who shut down the Michigan legislature weeks ago.