The United States teetered on the brink of its most serious internal conflict in decades as President Donald Trump said he was “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” in Washington DC.
He vowed on Monday evening to do the same in other cities if mayors and governors fail to regain control of the streets. But his words did little to quell the protests that continued overnight for the seventh straight night in defiance of curfews, in a slew of cities from New York to Philadelphia to Atlanta.
Tweeting after the rioting in the morning yesterday, Mr Trump wrote: “D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination. Likewise, Minneapolis was great (thank you President Trump!).”
He had harsh words for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his brother, TV journalist Chris Cuomo.
“Yesterday was a bad day for the Cuomo Brothers. New York was lost to the looters, thugs, Radical Left, and all others forms of Lowlife & Scum. The Governor refuses to accept my offer of a dominating National Guard. NYC was ripped to pieces. Likewise, Fredo’s ratings are down 50%!”
As he spoke in the Rose Garden on Monday, minutes before a 7pm curfew was to come into effect, military and mounted police used tear gas and rubber bullets to push back protesters who ran helter-skelter through the capital’s shuttered downtown. Explosions could be heard in the Rose Garden.
The protests were mostly peaceful – a characteristic of the demonstrations across dozens of cities in recent days since the death of Mr George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, while restrained in police custody in Minneapolis a week ago. A police officer placed a knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
An independent autopsy ordered by Mr Floyd’s family and released on Monday concluded that he died from “mechanical asphyxiation”.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck, and three others who stood by, were swiftly fired, but it took four days to charge Chauvin with third-degree murder. He was arrested, and on Monday transferred to a maximum security prison.
The other three officers have not been charged – a continuing source of outrage for the protesters.
The protesters have comprised not just African Americans but to a large extent white people and also, by and large, young people. They have been mostly peaceful during the day, but stores and buildings have been looted and torched after dark. The administration blamed radical left-wing and anarchist groups for the destruction. State authorities have said the damage was perpetrated by elements other than the protesters.
THREAT TO DEPLOY THE MILITARY
If a city or state refuses to take the actions 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.
U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on sending troops to various parts of the country to quell the protests.
Said Mr Trump: “In recent days, the nation has been gripped by violent anarchists.
“What happened in the city (Washington) last night was a total disgrace. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.
“If a city or 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 also drew condemnation for the unprovoked tear-gassing of peaceful protesters by federal officers before the city’s 7pm curfew had taken effect. An Australian TV crew live on air was also physically hit by police clearing a path for the President. On Monday, Mr Floyd’s brother, speaking in Minneapolis, called for a stop to violence.
Former president Barack Obama also said in a statement: “The waves of protests… represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the US.”
Analysts see this as a pivotal moment in a country under severe stress from the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people and crashed the economy, leaving some 40 million unemployed.
Meanwhile, a man who allegedly brought explosive materials to the demonstrations in Minneapolis from Illinois was yesterday charged with inciting riot, in the first federal prosecution stemming from the unrest.