Speaking in the Rose Garden last night, United States President Donald Trump threatened to deploy the military across the country, to stop the protests and rioting that have ripped through America since the killing of unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of four police officers in Minnesota.
Trump stated that he has called on the governors of all US states to deploy the national guard and “dominate the streets”, and threatened that if they did not, he would deploy the military to “solve the problem for them”.
Whilst speaking to the press, Trump specifically stated the need to protect the second amendment rights, drawing criticism for stoking the tension in America and insinuating that individuals should use their weapons to put down protests themselves.
In the week since the death of George Floyd – an African American man who was killed whilst being held down by three police officers – protests have erupted across America, with some of these turning into riots and looting.
The response of the police to these protests have been heavily criticised for the use of excessive force, with videos going viral seeming to show reporters being arrested and shot at with rubber bullets.
These police responses have only seen the protests grow, with marches happening across the United States, including in Washington D.C., where it is alleged that Donald Trump retreated to a White House safety bunker in the face of protesters gathered outside the president’s residence.
Fires have raged across Minneapolis in the week since Floyd’s death, as the governor has stated that he does not have the police numbers to control the spread of unrest.
An independent autopsy found that Floyd, 44, had been killed by asphyxiation and Hennepin County concluded that his death was homicide. This comes after one of the officers involved in the incident had been arrested and charged with third-degree murder – which implies negligence leading to accidental death.
The protests and riots transcend the killing of one man and have come to represent a reaction against a system that sometimes sees different criminal justice outcomes for African Americans, with the protesters calling for fundamental systemic change in order to redress the balance of the United States criminal justice system.
In the hours before Trump called on the military to quell protests in America, former President, Barack Obama, released a statement condemning the violence and calling on Americans everywhere to end the “legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment”.
An unarmed African American man, David McAtee, was killed in Louisville after the police and members of the National Guard opened fire on a crowd. The police stated that this was in response to being fired on by protesters, but this account is disputed by eye-witnesses. Last week African American woman Breonna Taylor was killed by police in her Louisville home, just days after the killing of George Floyd.
Donald Trump drew further criticism last night for using the police to clear a group of unarmed protesters – using tear gas and rubber bullets – at St John’s Church in Washington D.C., where he later posed for a photo opportunity. This comes after protesters had attempted to burn down the historic church – which sits across from the White House – over the weekend.
In the night after Trump’s Rose Garden statement, there were reports of armed civilians firing on police in St Louis, with officers forced to retreat and four taken to hospital.
The situation in America seems to be deteriorating fast, and if the military takes to the streets in the coming days it seems likely that the situation will only escalate further.