US President Donald Trump on Tuesday escalated his attacks on local leaders, admonishing them to call in military reinforcements to stop the looting and other violence that has continued to spread in US cities following last week’s death of George Floyd, a man now seen as a symbol of police brutality against America’s black community.
Criticism from many Democrats and some members of his own Republican Party mounted in response to Trump’s pose on Monday with a Bible in front of a church near the White House. National Guard officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protesters to clear the way for the president’s walk to St. John’s Church for the photo opportunity.
Trump justified the show of force by saying on Twitter that “DC had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination”. He then said New York City was lost to “looters”, “thugs”, and “scum”.
Yesterday was a bad day for the Cuomo Brothers. New York was lost to the looters, thugs, Radical Left, and all others forms of Lowlife & Scum. The Governor refuses to accept my offer of a dominating National Guard. NYC was ripped to pieces. Likewise, Fredo’s ratings are down 50%!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2020
Trump called out New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for refusing to allow in “a dominating National Guard”, and zinged the governor’s younger brother and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo by referring to him as “Fredo”, a reference to a younger sibling of the titular character in Mario Puzo’s classic novel about mafia violence, The Godfather.
Addressing Trump’s church pose, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Trump’s “narcissism has become more important than the nation that he leads”.
“This president today is part of the problem and accelerates it,” Biden said at a campaign event in Philadelphia, adding that Trump is “consumed with his blinding ego”.
“Weakness will never beat anarchists, looters or thugs, and Joe has been politically weak all of his life,” Trump tweeted in response. “LAW & ORDER!”
Meanwhile, military vehicles rumbled throughout the capital city’s downtown core on Tuesday, blocking off some intersections ahead of a 7pm curfew, as authorities aimed to keep violence at bay.
Protesters defied curfews in many US cities on Monday night despite Trump’s vow to use military force to end the unrest that has spread throughout the country. While many of the protests remained peaceful, looting erupted in the regions of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, among others.
In Manhattan, looters tried to ransack some of the city’s iconic retailers, such as Macy’s flagship store in midtown and luxury boutiques lining Fifth and Madison avenues, including Hermes.
We support peaceful protest in this city. But right now it’s time to go home.
Some people are out tonight not to protest but to destroy property and hurt others — and those people are being arrested. Their actions are unacceptable and we won't allow them in our city.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) June 2, 2020
An ABC Eyewitness News report described a “cat and mouse” game played by groups of people, separate from peaceful protests elsewhere in the city, smashing through doors and grabbing merchandise.
The report contrasted these activities with a scene a few hours earlier in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, where the Chief of the New York Police Department, Terence Monahan, took a knee with protest leaders after they helped police defuse an incident in which protesters threw bottles at some of Monahan’s officers.
“That’s the first moment where we get this together,” Monahan said after embracing protesters. He called on them to continue working with police to stop those aiming “to take this movement, which is a good movement, and turn it into violence against the men and women who love the community”.
New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an earlier curfew for Tuesday, moving the time forward to 8pm from the 11pm deadline announced just a few hours before it was imposed on Monday.
Four police officers were shot just after midnight in St. Louis, after peaceful protests in the city throughout Monday devolved into violence, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. All four officers were conscious with non-life-threatening injuries.
“I believe some coward randomly shot at the police line,” St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden told reporters in a briefing nearly two hours later.
A police officer in Las Vegas is on life support after being shot in the head, according to local media reports. The officer was reportedly taking protesters into custody for throwing bottles and rocks at police when the shooting took place. The suspect was taken into police custody, according to CBS affiliate 8 News Now.
Demonstrations of various sizes developed around California, mostly peaceful, although police continued to move against other groups apparently using the protests as an opportunity to break into stores and steal goods.
The Los Angeles Police Department moved more rapidly against the looters than they had over the weekend and arrested “dozens”, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Trump made it clear in a speech from the White House just minutes before Washington’s curfew began on Monday that local police must put up “an overwhelming law enforcement presence” until the protests have been quelled.
He also threatened to deploy military forces to “quickly solve the problem for them”.
Meanwhile, George Floyd’s brother, addressing a group of protesters on Monday at the site of his brother’s death outside a shop in Minneapolis, called for an end to the looting and destruction of property.
“If I’m not over here blowing up stuff, if I’m not over messing up my community, then what are y’all doing?” Terrence Floyd said. “That’s not going to bring my brother back at all.”
Floyd, 46, died after he was arrested outside the shop on May 25, following a report by one of the store’s employees that Floyd had tried to use a counterfeit US$20 bill. Footage of the arrest shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while he was pinned to the ground.
Chauvin, 44, was one of four officers on the scene who were fired from the Minneapolis police force. But he is so far the only one to be officially charged: the Hennepin County district attorney indicted him for third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin was also accused of ignoring another officer who warned him about Floyd’s safety after Floyd was handcuffed on the ground and pleaded that he could not breathe.
The Hennepin county medical examiner in Minnesota released a report confirming that Floyd’s death was a homicide resulting from being restrained, explaining that the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain, and neck compression”.
This article US protests: Trump hails ‘many arrests’ in Washington, blasts ‘scum’ in New York first appeared on South China Morning Post