Trump tweets do little to calm a nation on edge, as more violent protests rock cities
As violent protests continued for a fifth straight night over the death of an African-American man during an arrest by Minneapolis police, President Trump took advantage of the crisis to take a swipe at “the Democrat Mayor” of Minneapolis for failing to control the protests, praising a “great job” by the Minnesota National Guard.
With more than 4,000 troops on the ground and a total of some 10,000 mobilized, the Guard helped enforce, albeit partially, an 8 p.m. curfew ordered by the governor and along with police dispersed a crowd that had attempted to storm a police station house. Two nights earlier, another precinct house had been burned down by demonstrators.
The National Guard “should have been used 2 days ago & there would not have been damage & Police Headquarters [sic] would not have been taken over & ruined,” Trump tweeted.
As police clashed with demonstrators in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities, Trump, after returning to the White House from Florida where he witnessed the launch of two astronauts aboard the SpaceX rocket, was uncharacteristically reticent on Twitter. He sent out several tweets during the day supporting the rights of “peaceful protestors” and condemning the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned to the ground by four officers. One of the officers, who was videotaped kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, was charged with murder on Friday.
Trump has often treated law enforcement officers as part of his base and encouraged police officers not to be “so nice” to criminal suspects in their custody.
After a raucous protest Friday night outside the White House, Trump praised the Secret Service for keeping him safe and mocked the protesters.
“They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe. They let the ‘protesters’ scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action. ‘We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and good practice.’”
An hour later, the president appeared to welcome a clash between what he called “so-called protesters” and those who supported his agenda.
The professionally managed so-called “protesters” at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble. The @SecretService handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2020
The hashtag #MAGANIGHT quickly trended on Twitter, and, later in the day, the president was asked about his choice of words.
“I have no idea if they are going to be here. I was just asking, but I have no idea if they’re going to be here,” Trump replied.
Pressed by a reporter if he was encouraging a counterprotest, Trump said, “I don’t care.”
Later on Saturday, Trump said the National Guard had been “released in Minneapolis to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do,” again seemed to green-light whatever police tactics were necessary to put down those in the streets protesting police brutality.
Let New York’s Finest be New York’s Finest. There is nobody better, but they must be allowed to do their job!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2020
In contrast, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement Saturday night that appealed to an end to the violence while acknowledging the reasons the protests had erupted across the nation.
“The last few days have laid bare that we are a nation furious at injustice. Every person of conscience can understand the rawness of the trauma people of color experience in this country, from the daily indignities to the extreme violence, like the horrific killing of George Floyd,” Biden said in his statement. “Protesting such brutality is right and necessary. It’s an utterly American response. But burning down communities and needless destruction is not.”
Trump, however, spent much of the the week describing the issues at hand with a different emphasis.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote Thursday of the violent clashes at Minneapolis. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The same phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” had been used in 1967 by notorious Miami Police Chief Walter Headley and later repeated by segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace in 1968. Twitter flagged the president’s tweet for “glorifying violence.”
Trump, however, claimed in a Friday press conference that he didn’t know where those words had originated before he typed them. Still, the president saw fit to explain himself in a way that made clear that he believed those responsible for civil unrest deserved the consequences of their actions.
....It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
Like Trump, Attorney General William Barr has echoed language used by law enforcement officials during the civil rights movement, blaming “far left extremist groups” and “outsiders” for stirring up violence at protests.
“Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate violent agenda,” Barr said on Saturday. “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and ... far left extremist groups using Antifa-like tactics.”
Trump’s critics, meanwhile, believe that Trump is at least partly to blame for stirring up racial discord. On Friday, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took issue with Trump’s tweets.
The president of the United States is calling for violence against American citizens.
That is so wrong. We need honest reckoning and reconciliation.
If you haven’t already joined the work to replace him in November, start now.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 29, 2020
Clinton cited a video that Trump retweeted on Wednesday in which a man representing the group Cowboys for Trump quips that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
The man went on to say, “I don’t say that in the physical sense, and I can already see the videos getting edited where it says ‘I oughta go murder Democrats,’ no. I say that in the political sense because the Democrat agenda and policy is anti-America.”
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