US: Trump threatens to deploy military to end protests

President tells state governors they must 'dominate' protesters, or will 'look like jerks'

US president Donald Trump makes a statement to the press in the Rose Garden about restoring “law and order” in the wake of protests at the White House. Photograph:  Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US president Donald Trump makes a statement to the press in the Rose Garden about restoring “law and order” in the wake of protests at the White House. Photograph: Somodevilla/Getty Images)

 

US president Donald Trump on Monday vowed to end violent protests in major cities across the nation “now,” saying that he would deploy the military if mayors and state governors refused to call out the National Guard.

As Mr Trump spoke in the Rose Garden of the White House, live television images showed police firing tear gas to dispel demonstrators in Lafayette Park, across the street.

“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Mr Trump said. “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.”

Mr Trump described himself as the “president of law and order” as he threatened to deploy the military if state governors did not halt the protests.

“First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.

“Today I have 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 to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

The demonstrations, largely peaceful during the day but turning violent after dark, have erupted over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died in Minneapolis police custody after being pinned beneath a white officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes.

A second autopsy ordered by Mr Floyd’s family and released on Monday found that his death was a homicide by “mechanical asphyxiation,” meaning some physical force interfered with his oxygen supply. The report says three officers contributed to Mr Floyd’s death.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner on Monday released details of its autopsy findings that also said Mr Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by asphyxiation. The county report added that Mr Floyd suffered cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police and that he had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.

Law enforcement officers monitor a protest in downtown Washington, DC. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Law enforcement officers monitor a protest in downtown Washington, DC. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The new findings emerged after Mr Trump spoke to the governors earlier in the day.

“You have to dominate,” he told them in a private call obtained by Reuters. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time – they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”

Trump said the federal government was going to clamp down “very strong” on the violence. National Guard troops were deployed near the White House early Monday evening.

Dozens of cities across the US remain under curfews at levels not seen since riots that broke out following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The National Guard deployed in 23 states and Washington, DC.

One person was killed in Louisville, Kentucky, overnight where police and National Guard troops returned fire while trying to disperse a crowd. Police in Chicago fielded some 10,000 calls for looting, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

The unrest, which erupted as the country was easing sweeping lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus, began with peaceful protests over Mr Floyd’s death.

Derek Chauvin, a since-fired 44-year-old officer, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd’s death was the latest to prompt an outcry over racism in law enforcement.

The US Justice Department has directed the Bureau of Prisons to send riot-control teams to Miami and Washington, DC, to help manage the protests, a department official told reporters.

Department investigators are interviewing people arrested during protests who might face federal charges for such offences as crossing state lines to incite violence, the official said.

Mr Trump has condemned the killing of Mr Floyd and promised justice but has described protesters as “thugs.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden met with black community leaders in a church and said he would create a police oversight board within his first 100 days in the White House if elected. – Reuters/PA