President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to extinguish protests around the country if cities or states do not do what’s “necessary to defend the life and property of their residents.”
“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,” Trump said before reporters on Monday. “I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
Trump called on governors to utilize the National Guard, which the president said he wanted to “dominate the streets” across the country. In Washington, D.C., Trump said he was already dispatching “heavily armed” forces.
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” he said. “We are putting everyone on warning. Our 7 o’clock curfew will be strictly enforced.”
The president left without taking any questions. He then walked to St. John’s Church holding a Bible, but law enforcement officials fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful protesters to clear a path.
Protests across the country have continued this week in response to the killing of George Floyd. Though many of the protests have been peaceful, police have violently clashed with protesters in numerous cities, frequently using tear gas, rubber bullets and arresting hundreds. In Los Angeles, businesses across the county have also been vandalized and looted by some demonstrators.
Earlier on Monday during a private call with the country’s governors, Trump advocated for “retribution” against protesters, whom he called “terrorists,” “anarchists” and “radicals,” and said governors needed to “dominate” them.
“It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down it will get worse and worse,” Trump said, according to a recording of the call obtained by the New York Times. “The only time they’re successful is when you’re weak. And most of you are weak.”
“Someone throwing a rock is like shooting a gun. You have to do retribution,” he also said.
Last week, Trump also faced pushback for tweeting and writing in a Facebook post, “When the shooting starts, the looting starts” — a phrase with a racist historical context. Twitter placed a content-warning label on the tweet for “glorifying violence,” but Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said his platform wouldn’t remove or otherwise mark the post because “people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”