As protests, rioting and looting spread across the United States following the police killing of George Floyd, an African American man last week, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would deploy the military in cities and states if local authorities could not bring the violence under control.
“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Mr. Trump said at the White House Rose Garden on Monday evening (Tuesday morning India time).
“If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he said. Earlier on Monday Mr. Trump told state Governors on a call that they needed to “dominate” protesters and if they did not, they would end up looking “like a bunch of jerks.”
Over 75 cities have seen protests over the murder of Mr. Floyd.
Warning Washington DC citizens of a seven o’clock curfew, he said he was deploying, “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers” in the city.
All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served,” Mr. Trump said.
“The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
Protesters dispersed in Lafayette Square
Before Mr. Trump started speaking, police fired rubber bullets, flash-bang shells and gas into protesters in Lafayette Square – which is just outside the White House. Before curfew, the authorities cleared the park with a series of explosions, The Washington Post reported.
His path cleared of protesters, Mr. Trump walked, after his Rose Garden remarks, across the park in Lafayette Square to the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church – the church’s basement had been set on fire in Sunday night’s protests. He was accompanied by others, including his daughter and son-in-law, White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, NSA Robert O’ Brien and Attorney General William Barr. On Monday night, standing outside the Church, Mr. Trump posed for photographs with a Bible in hand.
Democrat leaders began calling out Mr. Trump for his reaction and the optics.
“Calling out the American military for a photo opportunity. That’s what it was. I mean, it was shameful. It was really, truly shameful,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
“Across our country, Americans are protesting for an end to the pattern of racial injustice and brutality we saw most recently in the murder of George Floyd,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
“Yet, at a time when our country cries out for unification, this President is ripping it apart. Tear-gassing peaceful protesters without provocation just so that the President could pose for photos outside a church dishonors every value that faith teaches us.”
Former Australian Labour Party Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reacted on Twitter, saying Mr. Trump had abused, “ Christianity, church and bible to justify violence.”
“Instead of advocating reforms against police brutality, he essentially authorised a police state. He declared himself an ally of peaceful protesters as federal law enforcement officers fired tear gas on them to clear the way for his photo-op,” Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Convention, said in a statement on Monday.