Amid racial unrest across the nation, US President Donald Trump on Monday declared himself “the president of law and order” and threatened to deploy the United States military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests.
As Trump spoke, an incredible TV split screen developed around the White House. While he addressed the nation in the White House’s idyllic Rose Garden, a series of military vehicles rolled out front on Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters at Lafayette Park.
Those peaceful demonstrators were cleared so Trump could walk across the park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as “The Church of the Presidents,” which suffered fire damage in a protest this week. Holding a Bible, he then stood with several of his Cabinet members as the cameras clicked.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump declared. “We’re going to keep it safe.”
President Trump: "I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets…if a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary…then I will deploy the United States military" pic.twitter.com/m3sZmJ8XzW
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) June 1, 2020
Trump said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands” of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests. Loud tear gas explosions could be heard as authorities moved what appeared to be peaceful protests in the park. The escalation came just after Attorney General William Barr came to the park to to survey the demonstrators.
“What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace,” Trump said of the Washington protests. “As we speak I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and wanton destruction of property.”
“These are not acts of peaceful protests, these are acts of domestic terror,” Trump said. “I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and a lengthy sentences in jail.”
According to senior defense officials, between 600 and 800 National Guard members from five states were being sent to Washington to provide assistance. Those troops were either already on the ground or will arrive by midnight.
Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from the Civil War, which allows the use of active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.
The officials said that some of the National Guard in Washington, DC will be armed and others will not. They said that the Washington, DC guard members do not have non-lethal weapons. The military police that are visible in the city are members of the Guard.
On Monday, one week after George Floyd died in Minneapolis, an autopsy commissioned by his family blamed his videotaped death squarely on a white police officer who pinned him down by the neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes as Floyd pleaded, “I can’t breathe!”
“The evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, and homicide as the manner of death,” Aleccia Wilson, a University of Michigan expert who examined his body at the family’s request, told a news conference.
The family’s autopsy differs from the official autopsy as described in a criminal complaint against the officer. That autopsy included the effects of being restrained, along with underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system, but also said it found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
The unrest has been the most widespread in the United States since 1968, when cities went up in flames over the slaying of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., and rekindled memories of 1992 riots in Los Angeles after police were acquitted in the brutal beating of black motorist Rodney King.