With America descended into chaos after six nights of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Donald Trump thinks force will solve the problem. Urging governors to “dominate” protestors, Trump appears to be attempting to show strength after laying low this past weekend.
On Monday, President Trump called out many governors as being “weak” and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing among some demonstrations in the aftermath of another night of violent protests in dozens of American cities.
Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher.”
“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people.”
The days of protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The demonstrations turned violent in several cities, with looting and mayhem, and fires ignited in historic park Lafayette Park across from the White House.
The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced a spasm of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“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,” said Trump. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”
The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more of the National Guard as a show for force on city streets.
“Dominate” the Streets
Attorney General Bill Barr, who was also on the call, told governors that a joint terrorist task force would be used to track agitators and urged local officials to “dominate” the streets and control, not react to crowds, and urged them to “go after troublemakers.”
Trump’s angry exhortations at the nation’s governors came after a night of escalating violence, images of fires and looting and clashes with police filling the nation’s airwaves and overshadowing the largely peaceful protests. The protests grew so heated Friday night that the Secret Service rushed the president to an underground bunker previously used during terrorist attacks.
Flag burning Revisited
On Monday, Trump also spoke of trying to criminalize flag-burning. The Supreme Court has conservative new members since it last ruled on that issue, and Trump said that “I think it’s time to review that again.”
He continued his effort to project strength, using a series of inflammatory tweets and delivering partisan attacks during a time of national crisis.
As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
No Show Trump
Trump did not appear in public on Sunday and was not scheduled to on Monday either.
The demonstrations in Washington appeared to catch officers by surprise. They sparked one of the highest alerts at the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Secret Service protocol would call for all those under the agency’s protection to be in the underground shelter.
Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening. Trump retweeted a message from a conservative commentator encouraging authorities to respond with greater force.
“This isn’t going to stop until the good guys are willing to use overwhelming force against the bad guys,” Buck Sexton wrote in a message amplified by the president.
White House Security Upped
In recent days security at the White House has been reinforced by the National Guard and additional personnel from the Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police.
The Justice Department deployed members of the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops outside the White House, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Developments since George Floyd’s Murder:
- In some cities, law enforcement officers were seen marching and kneeling with protesters. But elsewhere, police in riot gear continued to increase their use of force, which added to the disorder. On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) ordered a state investigation after a man was fatally shot during an overnight confrontation with Louisville police and the National Guard.
- Former president Barack Obama spoke out about the unrest, urging those angered to focus their efforts on state and local elections.
- It has been one week since George Floyd died in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into the 46-year-old black man’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd’s brother, Terrence, said he plans to visit the scene of the incident this week. “I just want to feel my brother’s spirit,” he said Monday.
- More than 4,000 people were arrested across the country during weekend demonstrations, according to the Associated Press. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, was among the hundreds of people arrested in the city after failing to disperse.
- Several Facebook employees publicly chastised chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for his hands-off approach to a divisive post on the demonstrators by President Trump.
- A number of major retailers, including Walmart and Target, have temporarily closed their stores in some areas rocked by upheaval. In California, state government buildings were ordered closed Monday “in downtown city areas.”