Updated June 1, 2020 - 9:18 pm
WASHINGTON — In the Rose Garden on Monday evening, President Donald Trump promised “swift and decisive action” to quell riots and social unrest that ravaged American cities following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man as he was arrested by white Minneapolis police officer one week ago.
Trump indicated he’d use all resources at his disposal, civilian and military, to achieve those ends.
Trump ended his six-minute remarks declaring that he was going to “pay my respects to a very, very special place.” He then strolled through Lafayette Park north of the White House to visit St. John’s Church, which had been torched Sunday night during violent unrest.
Surrounded by security and top advisers, Trump walked outside of the White House grounds and through the littered park, which law enforcement had just cleared of protesters. He brandished a Bible in front of the boarded-up “Church of Presidents,” which remained open after the fire.
Earlier in the day during a conference call, Trump unloaded on the nations’ governors, telling them, “most of you are weak.”
“You have to get much tougher,” Trump told the governors, according to a recording posted by the Daily Beast. Trump recommended putting violent protesters away for as long as 10 years.
“These are terrorists. And they’re looking to do bad things to our country,” Trump said. “They’re Antifa and they’re radical left.” Trump singled out the far-left-leaning, anti-fascist militants known as Antifa as a terrorist organization over the weekend on Twitter.
On the same call, Attorney General William Barr told the governors that his Department of Justice was prepared to identify, isolate and pull out of crowds activists seen violating federal law.
Monday night, Gov. Steve Sisolak released a statement in response to the president, saying that Americans “are justifiably frustrated and angry at the senseless murder of George Floyd, the improper use of force, systemic racism, and the rampant injustices Black Americans face.”
“At this critical time, all Americans, especially our leaders, should be sending a message of compassion and taking the time to listen,” Sisolak said. “Unfortunately, the President has once again taken the path of inciting combativeness, stoking racial tensions, and creating division when we need unity more than ever.”
Sisolak added that to say the state’s National Guard and local authorities “are unable, have failed, or refuse to secure and protect the residents of the State of Nevada and their rights, privileges, and immunities, is misinformed.”
Military central command
During an afternoon briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley would be in charge of a “central command center” that would work with state and local governments dealing with protests.
A total of 17,000 National Guard members have been activated in 23 states. Trump chided governors who had not called in the National Guard for failing to do so.
McEnany faulted governors for failing “their responsibility to police their streets” and offered that the Insurrection Act of 1807 allows the president to deploy military troops on U.S. soil.
In line with Trump’s anger at Antifa, Barr disclosed Sunday that federal law enforcement would be “directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law.”
Trump started his Monday on Twitter with posts that looked to the Nov. 3 election and touted his law-and-order credentials.
“NOVEMBER 3RD,” read one tweet. Another post hit campaign staffers who work for likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden because they donated money to a fund that bails out protesters arrested in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd died during a videotaped arrest Monday and where subsequent riots have turned retail stores and small businesses into ash and rubble.
Washington, D.C., was not spared. Violent protests outside the White House led the Secret Service to rush the president into an underground bunker Friday night, according to multiple news reports.
The following morning, before he headed to Cape Canaveral to witness a manned SpaceX launch. Trump took to Twitter to crow that if any protesters had made it onto the White House grounds, they would have been “greeted with the most vicious dogs, and the most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
That provoked Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, to respond “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone.”
On Monday amid criticism that the mayor failed to prevent the trashing of Washington monuments and the torching of St. John’s Church, Bowser announced a 7 p.m. curfew for Monday and Tuesday — hours earlier than the 11 p.m curfew imposed Sunday night.
At Cape Canaveral, Trump said he had talked to Floyd’s family and called Floyd’s death a “grave tragedy.” Trump also announced that he had directed the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation.
Visit to Maine
During the call with governors, Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, told Trump that she was very concerned that his scheduled visit to her state Friday would cause “security problems.” Trump responded that he expected to be greeted by a crowd that is “very favorable. They like their president.”
Later Trump told West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, that Mills had tried to talk him out of visiting Maine, but in so doing, she “probably talked me into it.”
Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., criticized Trump for failing to unify the country in a time of national upheaval.
“Our nation is hurting and we can only truly heal if we do it together. Yet instead of uniting this country, Donald Trump is inciting violence against protesters and echoing segregationist slogans from the 1960s,” she said. “As the chief promoter of the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama isn’t American and a leading voice in falsely accusing the Central Park Five, Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to meet this moment. He has nothing valuable to contribute to the conversation about ending systemic racism in this country.”