WASHINGTON — As the nation prepared for another night of violent protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the military if states and cities failed to quell the demonstrations.
“I am mobilizing all federal and local resources, civilian and military, to protect the rights of law abiding Americans,” Trump said during a hastily arranged address at the White House.
“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 presence until the violence is quelled,” Trump said.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions 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,” said the president.
Trump stopped short of invoking the Insurrection Act, an archaic law from 1807 that would allow Trump to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to respond to protests in cities across the country. “At this time, the president has not enacted the Insurrection Act,” a senior Defense Department official told CNBC. “I refer you to the White House for more.”
During his address, Trump said he was taking “swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington DC,” adding, “What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace.”
“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.”
As the president spoke, riot police and military police outside the White House were using tear gas to clear protesters out of Lafayette Square, a public square in front of the president’s residence.
Following his remarks, Trump left the White House and walked through the square, and it appeared strongly as though the riot police had forcibly cleared the square for the sole purpose of clearing a path for the president.
Once he reached the far side of the square, Trump raised a bible in front of St. John’s Church, which had been set on fire by protesters the night before. The president did not try to talk to any of the protesters, however, leaving little doubt as to where his sympathies lay.