Trump threatens military action
MINNEAPOLIS, United States (AP) — President Donald Trump threatened yesterday to deploy the United States military unless states quickly halted the violent protests that have convulsed cities from coast to coast, hours after George Floyd’s brother pleaded for peace, saying destruction is “not going to bring my brother back at all”.
The competing messages — one conciliatory, one bellicose — came as the US braced for another round of violence at a time when the country is already buckling because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Great Depression-level unemployment it has caused.
Trump said he was recommending that governors deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets”. If governors fail to take action, Trump said, he will deploy the United States military and “quickly solve the problem for them”.
As Trump spoke in the Rose Garden, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding as police and National Guard soldiers aggressively forced back hundreds of protesters who gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, and chanted peacefully against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
Trump deplored the violence that broke out in the nation’s capital Sunday night and warned that Washington’s 7:00 pm curfew would be strictly enforced.
But in Minneapolis, Floyd’s brother, Terrence, made an emotional plea for peace at the site where Floyd was pinned to the pavement by a policeman who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing.
“Let’s switch it up, y’all. Let’s switch it up. Do this peacefully, please,” Terrence Floyd said.
The crowd chanted, “What’s his name? George Floyd!” and “One down, three to go!” in reference to the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest. Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder, but protesters are demanding that his colleagues be prosecuted, too. All four were fired.
The gathering was part rally and part impromptu eulogy as Floyd urged people to stop the violence and use their power at the ballot box.
“If I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are you all doing?” he asked. “You all are doing nothing. Because that’s not going to bring my brother back at all.”
The country has been beset by angry demonstrations for the past week, in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the US since the 1960s. Spurred in part by Floyd’s death, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killing of black people by police.
Yesterday, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who spilled onto an interstate highway in the heart of Philadelphia just before a 6:00 pm curfew took effect.
While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, others have descended into violence, leaving neighbourhoods in shambles, stores ransacked, windows broken, and cars burned, despite curfews around the country and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states.
Earlier yesterday, Trump told the nation’s governors in a videoconference that they “look like fools” for not deploying even more National Guard troops. “Most of you are weak,” he said.
He added: “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.”
Washington Governor 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 big-city mayors.
Biden said hate emerges “when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate”.
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