As a country convulsed by violent protests picked up the pieces Monday and braced for more trouble amid a coast-to-coast outpouring of rage over police killings of black people, U.S. President Donald Trump demanded the nation’s governors crack down harder on the lawlessness, telling them: “Most of you are weak.”
People have been protesting the death of a black man, George Floyd, during an arrest in Minneapolis one week ago. A white police officer is seen on citizen-shot video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Floyd was in handcuffs at the time. He died after the white officer ignored bystander shouts to get off him and Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe. His death has sparked days of protests in Minneapolis that have spread to cities around America, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, and New York.
The scale of the protests has rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras. At least 4,400 people have been arrested for offences such as stealing, blocking highways and breaking curfew, according to a count compiled by The Associated Press.
The Trump administration has portrayed the protest violence as the work of outside groups and extremists.
A bellicose Trump, in a video teleconference with the nation’s governors and law enforcement authorities, said: “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more National Guard members.
“You have to dominate,” he told governors on part of the call obtained by the New York Times. “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.”
U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr was also on the call and told governors they have to “dominate” the streets and control, not react to crowds. He called on them to “go after troublemakers” and use “adequate force.”