President Trump vowed Monday to deploy the military if local authorities can’t halt violence that has broken out amid a wave of protests nationwide over the death of George Floyd in police hands. Trump called himself an “ally of peaceful protesters” in a press conference in the White House’s Rose Garden, remarks that contrasted sharply with events outside the grounds minutes earlier, when military police and local police fired tear gas and flash grenades to disperse a group of peaceful demonstrators.
Echoing a phone call he he held earlier on Monday with governors, Trump urged them to create an “overwhelming law enforcement presence” and to deploy the National Guard to “dominate the streets,” threatening that if cities and states don’t take action, he will “deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Trump, who earlier in the day ordered the establishment of a military command center led by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, to coordinate the federal response to the protests, said he was mobilizing “all available federal resources – civilian and military – to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
Trump said “thousands and thousands” of soldiers and federal law enforcement would be sent to D.C. and that its 7 p.m. curfew would be “strictly enforced.”
On his phone call with governors, Trump said, “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
Following the speech, Trump headed over to nearby St. John’s Church for a quick photo op, which appeared to explain the forceful removal of protesters minutes earlier. The church was set on fire Sunday night.
The Right Rev. Mariann Budde, the Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said in a phone interview with the Washington Post that she was not given notice that Trump would be visiting beforehand and was “outraged.” “Everything he has said and done is to inflame violence.”
Prior to the address in the Rose Garden, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday rebuked Trump’s comments on the protests and killing of Floyd: “The president’s policies have worsened racial divisions in this country…His rhetoric has consistently inflamed them. Either the president is too afraid to lead or is simply incapable.”
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement that Trump’s comments on the Monday phone call with governors were “disturbing” and “should be gravely concerning to all Americans.”
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker told CNN following Trump’s remarks, “Peaceful protesters have a right to be there…I saw what happened. I was watching CNN when all of a sudden the troops move forward, and then they started pushing the protesters, throwing tear gas canisters. This is not the way we behave in the United States.”
Protests have broken out nationwide over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The county medical examiner’s office declared his death a homicide Monday. Chauvin has been fired and arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter, while three of the other arresting officers were fired but not taken into custody. On Sunday night, the White House went dark as fires were set, stores were looted and monuments in the Washington mall were vandalized.
4,000. That’s how many people were arrested over the weekend, according to the Associated Press. As of Sunday, 24 states had activated the National Guard.
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