Protesters gather in Harlem to protest the recent death of George Floyd in New York City. AFP
At least five US police were hit by gunfire during violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody, police and media said, hours after President Donald Trump said he would deploy the military if unrest does not stop.
Trump deepened outrage on Monday by posing at a church clutching a Bible after law enforcement officers used teargas and rubber bullets to clear the way for him to walk there after he made his remarks in the White House Rose Garden.
Wielding extraordinary federal authority, President Donald Trump threatened the nation’s governors on Monday that he would deploy the military to states if they did not stamp out violent protests over police brutality that have roiled the nation over the past week. His announcement came as police under federal command forced back peaceful demonstrators with tear gas so he could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible.
Trump’s bellicose rhetoric came as the nation convulsed through another round of violence over the death of George Floyd at a time when the country is already buckling under the coronavirus outbreak and the Depression-level unemployment it has caused. The president demanded an end to the heated protests in remarks from the White House Rose Garden and vowed to use more force to achieve that aim.
More than 5,600 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for such offences as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count by the media.
If governors throughout the country do not deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to "dominate the streets,” Trump said the US military would step in to "quickly solve the problem for them.”
"We have the greatest country in the world,” the president declared. "We’re going to keep it safe.”
A military deployment by Trump to US states would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history. Yet the message Trump appeared to be sending with the brazen pushback of protesters outside the White House was that he sees few limits to what he is willing to do.
Some around the president likened the moment to 1968, when Richard Nixon ran as the law-and-order candidate in the aftermath of a summer of riots, capturing the White House. But despite his efforts to portray himself as a political outsider, Trump is an incumbent who risks being held responsible for the violence.
Minutes before Trump began speaking, police and National Guard soldiers began aggressively forcing back hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, where they were chanting against police brutality and Floyd's death in Minneapolis. As Trump spoke, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding.
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread from Minneapolis across America. His brother Terrence pleaded with protesters on Monday to remain peaceful.
Five months before Election Day, the president made clear that he would stake his reelection efforts on convincing voters that his strong-arm approach was warranted to quell the most intense civil unrest since the 1960s. He made little effort to address the grievances of black Americans and others outraged by Floyd’s death and the scourge of police brutality, undermining what his campaign had hoped would be increased appeal to African-American voters.
The scene in and around the White House on Monday night appeared to be carefully orchestrated. As the crowd of protesters grew, Attorney General William Barr arrived in Lafayette Park to look over at the demonstrations and the swarm of law enforcement.
The sudden shift in tactics against the protesters was initially a mystery. Then, after finishing his Rose Garden remarks, Trump emerged from the White House gates and walked through the park to St. John’s Church, where an office had been set on fire the previous night.
Trump, who rarely attends church, held up a Bible and gathered a group of advisers – all white – to pose for photos.
The moment was quickly decried by Trump's critics, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying the president "used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church."
Derek Chauvin, who was dismissed from the police department with three fellow officers the day after the fatal encounter, was arrested on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges for his role in Monday's death of 46-year-old George Floyd.
President's motorcade passed El Paso protesters holding "Racist Go Home" signs. In Dayton, raw anger and pain were on display as protesters chanted "Ban those guns" and "Do something!"
In his most extensive comments yet on politics since stepping down from power on Jan.20, Trump also claimed credit for some Republican gains in the Nov.3 election and threatened to use his influence against party candidates who don’t align with him.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Following weeks of negotiations with the Democratic-led House of Representatives on a large and urgently-needed coronavirus-led spending bill which failed to produce an outcome to his liking, Donald Trump makes a show of signing a legally dubious executive action that — in his rendering of events — will allow him to get what he wants without regard for the pesky constitutional strictures that have bound every American president since George Washington.
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