Law and Order President vs. Protesters 06/02 06:30
Hours after President Donald Trump posed with a Bible and vowed to deploy
the military to "dominate the streets," American cities were engulfed in more
violence and destruction, overshadowing peaceful protests demanding justice
after generations of racism.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hours after President Donald Trump posed with a Bible and
vowed to deploy the military to "dominate the streets," American cities were
engulfed in more violence and destruction, overshadowing peaceful protests
demanding justice after generations of racism.
In New York City, nonviolent demonstrations were punctuated by people
smashing storefront windows near Rockefeller Center and breaching the doors
into the storied Macy's store on 34th Street, littering parts of Manhattan with
broken glass. A vehicle plowed through a group of law enforcement officers at a
demonstration in Buffalo, injuring at least two.
Demonstrations erupted from Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters
spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city, to Atlanta, where police fired
tear gas at demonstrators, to Nashville, where more than 60 National Guard
soldiers put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who
had gathered in front of Tennessee's state Capitol to honor George Floyd.
Bystander Sean Jones, who watched as people ransacked luxury stores in
Manhattan's chic Soho neighborhood, explained the destruction this way: "People
are doing this so next time, before they think about trying to kill another
black person, they're going to be like, 'Damn, we don't want them out here
doing this ... again.'"
The unrest in Minneapolis appeared to stabilize on the same day Floyd's
brother made an impassioned plea for peace at the location where a white police
officer put his knee on the handcuffed black man's neck until he stopped
breathing last week.
The death toll from the unrest began to mount, including two people killed
in a Chicago suburb. The police chief in Louisville was fired after a beloved
restaurant owner was killed by police and National Guard enforcing a curfew.
An officer was shot shortly before midnight near the Circus Circus casino in
Las Vegas. Police had no immediate word on the officer's condition. Four
officers were shot in St. Louis, Missouri, where police said they were expected
Trump, meanwhile, portrayed himself as a hard-nosed, law-and-order
president, with police under federal command forcing back peaceful
demonstrators with tear gas so he could pose with a Bible outside a damaged
Emerging after two days out of public view, he threatened from the White
House Rose Garden to deploy "thousands and thousands" of U.S. troops. Then he
made a surprise walk across Lafayette Park to a house of worship known as "The
Church of the Presidents."
The photo op was condemned by Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.
"The president just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a
backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything
that our church stands for," she said.
For nearly a week since Floyd's death, largely peaceful protests by day have
turned to chaos at night. Many express frustration that after years of seeking
reforms, minorities still suffer and die in police custody. With so many
aspects of society and the economy disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic,
people are demanding fundamental changes, nationwide.
"We have been sitting on a powder keg for some time and it has burst,"
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.
The president, seeking his second term in office, vowed to use more force to
stop the violence.
If governors don't deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to
"dominate the streets," Trump said, the U.S. 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."
As Trump spoke, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding.
A military deployment by Trump to U.S. states would mark a stunning federal
intervention rarely seen in modern American history. It drew comparisons to
1968, when Richard Nixon ran as the law-and-order candidate in the aftermath of
riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Minutes before Trump began speaking, police and National Guard soldiers
began aggressively removing hundreds of peaceful protesters from the Lafayette
Park, across the street from the White House, where they were chanting against
police brutality and Floyd's death.
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 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. Once his path was cleared, Trump, who rarely attends church,
then walked through the park and held up a Bible, posing for photos with an
all-white group of advisors.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Trump "used the military to push out a
peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church."
Federal law permits presidents to dispatch the military into states to
suppress an insurrection or if a state is defying federal law, legal experts
said. But officials in New York and other states asserted that the president
does not have a unilateral right to send in troops against the will of local
Earlier Monday, Trump told the nation's governors in a video conference that
they "look like fools" for not deploying even more National Guard troops. "Most
of you are weak," he said.
"You've got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them
in jail for 10 years and you'll never see this stuff again," Trump said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, dismissed Trump's comments as the
"rantings of an insecure man trying to look strong after building his entire
political career on racism."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate,
vowed to address institutional racism in his first 100 days in office. He met
in person with black leaders in Delaware and also held a virtual meeting with
Biden said hate emerges "when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen
into the hate."
More than 5,600 people nationwide have been arrested over the past week for
such offenses as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to
a count by The Associated Press.