President Trump made his first televised broadcast of George Floyd’s protests today, highlighting the need for “law and order” and threatened to send the United States military out to spread “mobs” by force across the country.
Just before the president spoke, federal police violently broke out a protest just outside the White House, gassing a group of about 1,000 protesters and then firing rubber bullets at them so that Trump could take a continuous photo in a nearby church that was damaged during the weekend’s turmoil.
The speech began in a seemingly sympathetic tone, stating that “all Americans rightly fell ill and rebelled due to the brutal death of George Floyd” and praised “the just cries of peaceful protesters.” But after that opening line, it immediately turned into an authoritarian-sounding indictment of protests raging across the country.
Trump declared that “I am the president of public policy,” warning that “our nation has been seized by professional anarchists.” He ordered mayors and governors to “dominate” the street, warning that “if a city or state refuses to take the necessary measures to defend the lives and property of its inhabitants, I will deploy the United States military and resolve the problem promptly. for them.” Those who have crossed Trump with this “will be detained and prosecuted for the full extent of the law.”
During the speech it was unclear what exactly this meant. It is illegal for the President to deploy the military in the way he describes unless he invokes a law called the Resurrection Act, passed in 1807, that he has yet to do.
But the true message of Trump’s address was seen near the White House. On H Street, one of the nearest publicly accessible streets of the White House, a crowd had gathered to demonstrate police brutality. Without warning or provocation, the police shot tear gas into the crowd and fired rubber bullets. The mounted police drove into the crowd and guarded the utterly peaceful and legitimate protesters from their location.
The reason for their move soon became clear. Trump had planned to visit St. John’s Church, a congregation on the same block as the demonstration. St. John’s had been damaged in last night’s turmoil and had become a cause for conservatives angry with the turmoil. The protest got in the way.
People who gathered to demonstrate police brutality were attacked by the police so the president could take a picture. Trump’s claim to respect ‘peaceful protesters’ and only want to break up the violent turned out almost immediately.