US violence: Biden denounces Trump threat to deploy army

‘We can be forgiven for believing president is more interested in power than principle’

Presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday denounced Donald Trump's threat to deploy the US military to deal with protesters, as demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd continued to rock the United States.

In an address to the nation from the White House Rose Garden on Monday as violent clashes took place nearby, Mr Trump said he was prepared to deploy the US military if states and governors could not control violence in their districts.

Though the president of the United States has the authority to invoke an 1807 Act to send in US forces to suppress a domestic insurrection, any move by the federal government to send troops to regions needs to be instigated by states themselves.

The Washington Post reported that attorney general William Barr personally requested that protesters demonstrating outside the White House before a 7pm curfew came into effect be pushed back before Mr Trump began speaking on Monday.


The protesters were dispersed before Mr Trump left the White House following his speech and walked across Lafayette Park to stand in front of St John’s Episcopal Church, where he held the Bible aloft.

‘Peaceful protesters’

Mr Biden used a speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday to excoriate Mr Trump’s response to the protests that have swept through the US. “When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House – using tear gas and flash grenades – in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” he said.

He also spoke about the injustices of a country “where too often just the colour of your skin puts your life at risk”.

Mr Floyd’s final words – “I can’t breathe” – “speak to a nation where more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to a virus and 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment – with a disproportionate number of these deaths and job losses concentrated in the black and minority communities,” he said.

Violent scenes

A police officer has been charged with third-degree murder in the death of Mr Floyd, an African American, in Minneapolis last month.

Mr Biden’s speech at Philadelphia’s City Hall was delivered in a city that has witnessed violent scenes in recent days. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters, while hundreds of National Guard troops were deployed to the city on Monday as confrontations erupted. A curfew was scheduled to begin in Philadelphia for the fourth night at 8.30pm on Tuesday.

As New York city continued to see some of the largest protests in the country and reported widespread looting and destruction on Monday night, tensions emerged between the city's mayor Bill de Blasio and governor Andrew Cuomo.

“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Mr Cuomo said at a press conference, referring to images of police officers being attacked, looting of shops in Manhattan and allegations the police force was overwhelmed. But Mr de Blasio defended the police force and noted that 700 arrests had been made.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent