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Trump threatens to use military to quell violent protests across US

Last updated on: June 02, 2020 11:55 IST

United States President Donald Trump has threatened that he would deploy the military if the states fail to take necessary actions to quell the violent protests that have spread across the country over the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd.

IMAGE: Demonstrators stand around a fire during a protest near the White House in response to the killing of George Floyd in Washington, DC. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

During a hurriedly-convened address to the nation from the Rose Garden of the White House, Trump announced on Monday that he was 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.

 

For about a week now, properties worth billions of dollars have been destroyed in the US, and rioters have damaged commercial centers, and public places and looted from shops and malls, in angry response to the killing of Floyd, a 46-year-old man who was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis last week by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.

"Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled," Trump said.

"If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and proper of their residents, then I will deploy the US military and quickly solve the problem for them," he threatened.

IMAGE: Protesters raise their hands to military police during a demonstration in Washington, DC. Thousands of protesters took to the streets throughout Washington to continue to show anger after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Trump said the country, in the recent days, has been gripped by "professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others".

But at the same time, in his address to the nation, Trump also said all Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death" of Floyd, and asserted that justice will be served.

He assured the nation that he was taking actions to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America.

IMAGE: A demonstrator holds up a sign in front of a police line during a protest in downtown Washington, DC. Protests and riots continue in cities across America following the death of George Floyd. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The US president said he had mobilised 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 the Second Amendment rights.

A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residents, he said.

"Innocent people have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas who was left dying on the street, or the woman in upstate New York viciously attacked by dangerous thugs. Small business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York's finest have been hit in the face with bricks," he said.

IMAGE: A person holds a "Black Lives Matter" sign as as a heavy cloud of tear gas and smoke rises after being deployed by Seattle police as protesters rally against police brutality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd. Photograph: Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

"Brave nurses who have battled the coronavirus are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct has been overrun. Here in the nation's capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African-American enforcement hero, was shot and killed," he said.

These are not acts of peaceful protest, but acts of "domestic terror", Trump said, adding that the destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood were an offense to humanity and a "crime against God".

"I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation and that is exactly what I will do. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain," he said .

IMAGE: A protester shouts in frustration during a march against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters

Considered to be the worst ever civil unrest in the US in decades, the violent protests have engulfed at least 140 cities across America in the days following the death of Floyd.

In Washington DC, the national capital, protestors burnt a historic church and damaged some of the prime properties and historic place like national monument and Lincoln Memorial. Trump describing the violence in Washington DC as "total disgrace".

Thousands of protesters continued with their demonstrations across cities in the US, in civic-disobeyance of the curfew that has been imposed in more than 150 cities in the country including the national capital.

IMAGE: Protesters take a knee and observe minutes of silence at the State Capitol, amid nationwide unrest following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Denver, Colorado. Photograph: Alyson McClaran/Reuters

State of emergencies have been declared in as many as six states and at least 13 major cities when reports last came in. As many as 67,000 National Guard troops have been deployed across the country. The Wall Street Journal said that this was the largest number ever activated in the US.

Asserting that his administration has not allowed the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob, Trump said the biggest victims of the rioting were peace-loving citizens in the poorest communities.

"And as their president, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters," Trump said trying to calm down the situation.

IMAGE: Protesters run from tear gas during a standoff in front of the Georgia State Capitol during a protest against the death in Minneapolis in police custody of African-American man George Floyd, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Dustin Chambers/Reuters

"America needs creation, not destruction; cooperation, not contempt; security, not anarchy; healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos. This is our mission and we will succeed 100 per cent. We will succeed. Our country always wins," he said.

"We are putting everybody on warning our 7 pm curfew will be strictly enforced. Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Trump said.

The nationwide protests sparked by the killing of Floyd have left at least five people dead. Over 4,000 people have been arrested and curfews imposed in at least 40 cities.

IMAGE: Officers kneel with protesters during a protest against the death in Minneapolis in police custody of African-American man George Floyd, in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Dustin Chambers/Reuters

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has appealed to the protesters demanding justice for the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd to voice their grievances in a peaceful manner and called on authorities to show restraint while responding to the widespread protests held across the US.

"The situation we're seeing today, we've seen in different parts of the world before and the Secretary General's message has been consistent one - that grievances must be heard, but they must be expressed in peaceful ways and authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrators," Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing on Monday.

IMAGE: Riot police chase a man as they rush protestors to clear Lafayette Park and the area around it across from the White House for US President Donald Trump to be able to walk through for a photo opportunity in front of St John's Episcopal Church, during a rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, near the White House, in Washington. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/Reuters

Dujarric said that as in any other country in the world, "diversity is a richness and not a threat" in the US.

"But the success of diverse societies, in any country, requires a massive investment in social cohesion. That means reducing inequalities, addressing possible areas of discrimination, strengthening social protection, providing opportunities for all," he said.

IMAGE: People climb into a damaged store during a protest against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

He said that these efforts and investments needed to mobilise national governments.

"They need to mobilise local authorities, the private sector, civil society, faith based organisations. In one word, society as a whole needs to be mobilised," the UN official said. 

-- With inputs from Yoshita Singh/PTI

Former US President Obama condemns violence at protests

Former US President Barack Obama condemned violence amid protests over the death of George Floyd and called for political solutions to address protesters' grievances about criminal justice.

"The protests represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system. We should condemn the few who resort to violence -- not the overwhelming majority who deserve our respect and support," Obama tweeted.

"The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable. But eventually, we have to translate those aspirations into specific laws and institutional practices," he added.

He further said, "The more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away."

Lalit K Jha
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