Washington D.C., Jun 1, 2020 / 05:45 pm (CNA).- During a speech from the Rose Garden on June 1, President Donald Trump pledged to deploy the U.S. military if state governors do not move to activate their National Guards to stop violent protests.
The president then walked across a square that moments before had been filled with protestors forcibly removed by police units, and visited a historic Episcopalian church that had been on fire the night before.
“I am mobilizing all federal resources–civilian and military–to stop the rioting and looting. To end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of all law-abiding citizens,” said Trump during his speech.
The president said that it was his “first and highest duty as president” to protect the country and the American people, and added that all Americans were “rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd.”
Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer held him on the ground during an arrest, his knee on Floyd's neck, even after the man said he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with murder. Throughout the country, protests and riots have been ongoing for the past week in response to Floyd’s death. Some of the protests have turned violent.
U.S. bishops have largely expressed support for peaceful protestors, and have condemned racism, police brutality, and the violent riots tha have gripped cities across the country.
“The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?” U.S. bishops conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez said in May 31 statement.
“We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life,” Gomez added.
“It is true what Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, that riots are the language of the unheard. We should be doing a lot of listening right now. This time, we should not fail to hear what people are saying through their pain. We need to finally root out the racial injustice that still infects too many areas of American society.”
“But the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let us keep our eyes on the prize of true and lasting change,” the archbishop added.
In his June 1 speech, Trump stated that “justice will be served” and that Floyd “will not have died in vain.”
The president referred to himself as “your president of law and order,” and “an ally of all peaceful protestors.”
“But in recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, criminals, rioters, Antifa, and others,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, Trump spoke to the governors of states, and he stated that he believed many of them had failed on a statewide level to protect their citizens. He said he ordered them to “dominate the streets” with the National Guard, and to have an “overwhelming” law enforcement presence to prevent further violence.
”We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,” said Trump.
Appearing to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, the president said that if governors refused to activate their National Guard units, he would “deploy the US military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
The last time the Insurrection Act was invoked was during the Los Angeles riots in 1992.
The president faced criticism, and a conflict with Twitter, last week for a May 29 tweet that again suggested the possibility of military action, and said "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Trump later said his tweet was not intended as a threat against protestors or rioters.
On Monday, Trump cited various acts of violence and vandalism that have occurred during the protests and riots, including the desecration of war memorials, beatings of people, the shooting death of a law enforcement officer in California, and the attempted arson of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. A fire was set in the basement of the church, which has been attended by every U.S. president.
Some protestors across the country have said that while violence and looting is unacceptable, some peaceful protests have turned violent only when police have fired tear gas or non-lethal projectiles at demonstrators. Trump's speech did not addess that charge.
“These are not acts of peaceful protests. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump said.
“America needs creation not destruction; cooperation not contempt; security, not anarchy. Healing, not hatred. Justice, not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed 100%,” said Trump. “We will succeed. Our country always wins.”
Following the speech, the president walked from the Rose Garden to St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo with members of his cabinet. The president did not enter the church, but returned to the White House after the photograph.