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‘Trumptilla’: Supporters hold boat rallies for US President Trump




The story of summer, 2020 in the United States is one of cancelled plans, pent up energy and existential angst. Whether they think COVID-19 is a threat or not, Americans have been forced to reshape their lives in the face of a pandemic that many of our leaders had said would be over by now. 

Inescapably, 2020 is also an election year, and this summer has seen an explosion of political expression.

Left-leaning cities have erupted in protests and uprisings, with tens of thousands outraged over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the broader issue of racial injustice in the US. 

But what of the others, many of whom live in rural areas and support Donald Trump’s re-election bid? 

Enter the “Trumptilla”. 

This summer, all over the country, seafaring supporters of President Donald Trump have taken to the water, staging enormous flotilla boat rallies. 

The origin can be traced back to a simple act of defiance in early May, when a Jupiter, Florida resident was banned by the management of his gated community from flying a “MAGA” flag off the end of his dock, referring to Trump’s 2016 election slogan: “Make America Great Again.”

Trump flotilla

Hundreds of Trump supporters gathered in Brewerton, New York and took to the water to display their loyalty to the US president [Adam Muro/Al Jazeera]

In response, he covered his boat in Trump decals, and when word got out, so-called “Trumptillas” began popping up everywhere, spreading from Florida to North Carolina, Arizona and, most recently, to New York state.

A “MAGA boater” even showed up for the splashdown of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship on Sunday, August 2, making an appearance on NASA’s live stream of the event.

“Boating is American. The communists shut everything else down, but they haven’t been able to shut this down,” explained David Kolakowski that same day on upstate New York’s Oneida Lake.

“At first we supported the [COVID-19] shutdown, but after that, it’s a lie to hurt the economy because they’re doing everything they can to hurt Trump, so we came out to show support,” he said.  

‘I love that he puts America first’

The event’s 23-year-old organiser, Tyler was inspired by a July Fourth rally in South Carolina, which drew a reported 3,400 boats, making it a potential Guinness World Records holder for the largest boat parade.

“I saw the [rally] on Lake Norman and thought ‘That would be pretty cool,'” he said.

Tyler did not want his last name used for fear of reprisal against his family’s businesses by anti-Trump community members. He said he has already received negative feedback.

“I got one [Facebook] message, they told me I was a racist and homophobic. I’m like, my girlfriend is Chinese and my twin-brother is gay,” he said. 

Fear of Trump haters was a concern for some who gathered at the waterfront Pier in Brewerton, New York on Sunday. 

Hundreds of yachts, pontoon boats, speed boats and small aluminium fishing boats decked out in “Trump 2020” flags with colourful slogans like “no more bullsh*t” and “f**k your feelings” floated back and forth on the water, getting ready to head out.

Onlookers sported custom “Oneida Lake Flotilla 2020” T-shirts and face masks, and by 10am were already cracking Twisted Teas and Michelob Ultras.

Trump flotilla

“MAGA boaters” rally for President Donald Trump while parked at Three Mile Bay on Oneida Lake in upstate New York [Adam Muro/Al Jazeera]

Shane Mennig was piloting a supercharged Yamaha jet ski, flying a Trump flag, an American flag and a “thin blue line” flag. The latter has become controversial – for nearly a century a symbol to represent law enforcement, in recent years it has also been flown by white supremacists.

Mennig, in his first year as a boater, bought two jet skis with his girlfriend Alisha McLaughlin in November. “I never owned a Trump flag until this, I ordered one online to be ready,” he said.

He is also a relative newcomer to politics and said he never really paid attention before Trump came on the scene. “I love that he puts America first,” he said. 

Asked about the “thin blue line” flag, he said lots of his buddies are sheriff’s deputies. 

“They’re pretty pro-Trump around here,” said Tyler, referring to the local Oswego and Onondaga county sheriff’s departments. “They called me and asked what I was doing it [the rally] for, and I said if it’s gonna be a problem just call it a protest, can’t stop us then,” he joked.

He said he was easily granted a permit for the flotilla.

As the boats left Brewerton, uniformed deputies smiled and waved from a county sheriff boat flying a large MAGA flag, and the boaters cheered back and shouted, “Thank you.”

‘Everyone’s six feet apart’

In Three Mile Bay, a shallow sheltered cove where Oneida Lake boaters often go to throw anchor and hang out, another contingent of MAGA boaters that launched from Sylvan Beach, on the other side of the lake, had already started the party. 

Country music blared from sound systems, people fired up grills and started tossing footballs.

“Absolutely, it’s safe! Look how far away everyone is, everyone’s six feet apart,” yelled David Kolakowski from his aluminium fishing boat, when asked if he thought this was a safe event in light of the pandemic. 

The scene resembled something similar to outdoor dining you might see on the streets of Manhattan: Friends and family clustered in pockets, parked up in disparate areas without much intermingling going on. Though no one was wearing a mask, the boaters kept their distance from one another for the most part.

The lake straddles Onondaga and Oswego counties, which have seen a combined 203 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Trump flotilla

Uniformed Oswego County Sheriff’s deputies escort and cheer on a pro-Trump boat rally, flying a large ‘MAGA’ flag in Brewerton, New York [Adam Muro/Al Jazeera]

“Most people stay in their group, they don’t really wander,” said Tyler. “Trump can’t have a rally because of the whole COVID thing, so I imagine people just wanted to come out, have a good time and support the president.”

Though only a few miles from the more diverse city of Syracuse, NY, the rally itself was overwhelmingly white. John, who asked to be identified by his first name only, is Hispanic and an avid boater. He says his politics lean conservative but is by no means a Trump supporter, and came out to Three Mile Bay to spend the day with his family, not knowing the flotilla would be showing up. 

“Everyone’s been really nice so far,” he said, in the middle of a game of Polish Horseshoes, where two teams throw a frisbee at each other trying to knock a bottle off a pedestal. “Hey, they’re just out here supporting what they like. What’s wrong with that?”

Trump flotilla

Onlookers watch as ‘MAGA boaters’ prepare to embark on their pro-Trump boat rally in Brewerton, New York [Adam Muro/Al Jazeera]

As the day dragged on and the hot sun took its toll, the boaters began to depart.

“We’re totally hooked,” said Shawn Bartlett, a corrections sergeant with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, who had a day off. “It’s great to get all the supporters together and show him [Trump] that the silent majority is out there. Don’t follow the polls.”

“‘Wow!’ is all I have to say. Incredible turnout,” said Tyler. He’s already planning the next one for Labor Day holiday weekend on September 5-7, and hopes to get an even higher turnout.

“Maybe one day, I’ll get flown to the White House,” he said, with a chuckle. “I think that’d be pretty cool.”

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The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know




What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?

On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. 

He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.

In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.

He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.

Was he poisoned? 

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.

A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.

Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.

Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body. 

US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.

How is Navalny’s condition now?

On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”

On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia. 

If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. 

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport. 

What effect has the alleged poisoning had?

The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government. 

MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.

For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.

Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”

A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny: 

August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport

August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital 

September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence

September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’

September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’

September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma

September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities

September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone

September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany

September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle

September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia 

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Former Canada PM Turner, in office for just 11 weeks, dies




John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister who held the office for just 79 days in 1984, died on Saturday aged 91.

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner, who was in office for only 11 weeks in the 1980s, has died at age 91, Canadian media outlets reported on Saturday.

Turner served as the country’s 17th prime minister and, despite his short tenure at the helm of a Liberal Party government in 1984, he spent decades in Canadian federal politics.

Turner took over from Pierre Elliott Trudeau – current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father – in late June 1984 at a time of increasing voter fatigue with the Liberals, who had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years.

At that point, he had already held the posts of finance and justice minister.

But his 79-day tenure as prime minister was the second shortest in Canadian history. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1990 and was replaced by Jean Chretien, who led the party to victory in 1993.

Turner’s time in federal politics was perhaps best remembered for his battles with former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, especially over free trade with the United States, CBC News reported.

‘Distinguished service’

On Saturday, legislators from across the Canadian political spectrum shared their memories of Turner, whom many described as being deeply devoted to the public service, and sent their condolences to his family.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who held the post from 2006 to 2015, said Turner “served his family and country with great dignity”.

“His legacy and commitment to public service will be remembered for generations,” Harper tweeted.

Liberal parliament member Yvan Baker said Turner was one of his early political role models.

“Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country,” Baker wrote on Twitter, alongside an image of himself with the late former prime minister.

Deeply saddened to learn former PM John Turner has passed away. He was one of my first political role models. Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country. My sympathies to his family at this difficult time.

— Yvan Baker, MP (@Yvan_Baker) September 19, 2020

Bob Rae, a longtime politician and now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Turner was many things – a lawyer, Rhodes scholar, athlete – but a “believer above all in the public service”.

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, said she would miss Turner’s “wise counsel”.

“He cared deeply about this country and our democratic institutions. We must now all carry his torch as we build an even better Canada,” she tweeted.



Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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Trump bans TikTok over security concerns




From: Inside Story

More than 100 million Americans will not be able to download two of the world’s most popular apps from Sunday.

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