In Depth

Reaction: Trump threatens George Floyd protesters with military force

Violence spreads across US following police killing of black man in Minneapolis

Donald Trump has threatened to send in “heavily armed” military to “dominate the streets” following a week of nationwide violence and protests triggered by the killing of an unarmed black man by police in Minneapolis.

George Floyd died on 25 May after white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest over an alleged fake $20 bill. The death has triggered nationwide demonstrations and fuelled anger over racism and police brutality against black Americans.

Calling for calm in an address to the nation for the White House Rose Garden on Monday, Trump said: “I am mobilising 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.”

In what The Independent describes as a “brazen move”, he then walked across neighbouring Lafayette Park to St. John’s Church, after uniformed US secret service and police officers, backed by National Guard troops, fired tear gas at peaceful protesters near the White House.

Posing with a Bible outside the church, Trump blamed the rioting in cities across the nation on “professional anarchists” and “violent mobs” whose actions were an “offence to humanity and a crime against God”.

“There was no talk of police reforms or the root causes of the protests that began last week at any point in the evening’s proceedings,” said the BBC’s North America reporter Anthony Zurcher. “Instead, he said he was the ‘president of law and order’ - a sign, it seems, that his solution to the ongoing crisis will be an escalation of force.”

“You may think it’s only a small thing that the military used helicopters to intimidate American civilians in the nation's capital,” tweeted Walter Shaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics. “It’s not. A line was crossed tonight. There will be other lines. This is Trump conditioning them to cross those lines.”

This fear was echoed by Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who has worked for George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain. “Watching Trump preen in front of St. John’s, moments after he threatened to deploy the American military against the American people, with a Bible held above his head, I remembered this quote, ‘when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross’,” Schmidt wrote in a Twitter post.

Or as California’s Democratic senator Kamala Harris put it, “Donald Trump just tear-gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op”. 

As the violence continued despite Trump’s warnings, two people were fatally shot in Chicago, taking the total number of people killed during the national unrest to 11, reports the Daily Mail.

“There is no obvious end point to the unfolding crisis. After months of the coronavirus and days of civil unrest, Americans are bracing themselves for more chaos in the days and weeks ahead,” says Edward Keenan, Washington bureau chief of the Toronto Star.

The “George Floyd murder exposes rotten racism in the US”, according to the Chinese state-backed Global Times.

“In a year of elections that are particularly important for Trump, votes from the black community do not matter that much,” says the newspaper.

“After all, Trump won just 8% of African-American voters four years ago. Black voters are always the base of the Democratic Party. So as protests escalate across the country, Trump played the same old political games.”

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Over in Europe, an editorial in France’s Le Monde paints a picture structural racism and brutality by police and others against black Americans in the US.  

“The list is too long to give here of these black American men of all ages, who are too often victims of encounters with the police that turn out badly; of the trigger-happy in a country where firearms are routinely carried as an accessory, or just plain racism,” says the newspaper. 

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