Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrators near the White House on Monday as US President Donald Trump vowed a massive show of force to end violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody.
Law enforcement including officers on horseback moved on protesters in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.
At nearly the same moment, Trump spoke in the Rose Garden and vowed to end unrest in major cities across the nation “now,” saying that he would deploy the military if state governors refused to call out the National Guard. “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 property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
As the police action against protesters gave him safe passage, Trump walked from the White House to nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church along with officials including U.S. Attorney General William Barr, where they posed for photos as the president held up a Bible.
Anti-police brutality marches and rallies, which have turned violent after dark each night over the last week, erupted over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died in Minneapolis police custody after being pinned beneath a white officer’s knee for nearly nine minutes.
A second autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family and released on Monday found that his death was a homicide by “mechanical asphyxiation,” meaning some physical force interfered with his oxygen supply. The report says three officers contributed to Floyd’s death.
The new findings emerged after Trump spoke to the governors earlier in the day.
“You have to dominate,” he told them in a private call. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time – they’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”
Trump said the federal government was going to clamp down “very strong” on the violence. National Guard troops were deployed near the White House early Monday evening.
Dozens of cities across the United States remain under curfews at levels not seen since riots that broke out following the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The National Guard deployed in 23 states and Washington, D.C.