Reprinted with permission from Alternet
President Donald Trump on Monday evening called for law enforcement across the country to dominate the ongoing protests and riots in response to the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police. The dark and authoritarian message delivered from the Rose Garden was sharply juxtaposed on cable news with images of peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates who were fired on by police with tear gas.
The president threatened to send the military into the streets if the unrest could not be quelled by other means.
"I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson," Trump said. "And to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights."
He didn't mention the First Amendment rights, which include the freedom of speech, assembly, and the press — all of which have been threatened as the police crack down, often violently, on protesters and reporters.
Trump did claim to be an "ally of peaceful protesters," and yet as many observers pointed out, he was one of the loudest voices denouncing Colin Kaepernick's famous kneeling protest during the national anthem at football games. And even as he spoke, law enforcement officials were attacking non-threatening protesters within earshot:
Here is what was happening outside the White House as President Trump was giving his Rose Garden address and saying… https://t.co/RmRrGKJzXO— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche Alcindor) 1591052857.0
"I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and wanton destruction of property," he said.
Local governments around the country have been implementing strict curfews in recent days to limit protests and rioting. But these policies have often seemed to feed confrontations with police, who use the curfews as an excuse to use violent force against anyone not appearing to comply.
"We are putting everyone on warning: our 7 o'clock curfew will be strictly enforced," Trump continued. "Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail."
The president and his administration have been suggesting that leftists, anarchists, and antifa are fueling the violence and rioting, but there's been little evidence that there is any organization to criminal acts. And the administration seems to be largely ignoring the extent to which police misconduct and right-wing agitators are playing their roles in stoking conflict.
As Trump closed his address, more explosions and discharges could be heard in the distance:
Explosions can be heard faintly in the background as Trump's speech wraps up https://t.co/tmPYKpNYbL— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1591052212.0
Alexi McCammond of Axios reported that to prepare for the president's subsequent trip over to St. John's Church, which had been set ablaze during the protests the previous night, park rangers used tear gas to clear protesters from Layfayette Park.
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