It’s hard to know where to start, following President Donald Trump’s press conference just prior to 9am AEST this morning. He did not talk about racial injustice or police violence in America, as one might expect and have hoped from a leader at this time.
Rather, he positioned himself as the President of “law and order”, ordered governors to “dominate” the protesters and promised to deploy the military.
The speech came after days of silence, and also reports that he’d spent time in an underground bunker as protesters gathered outside the White House over the weekend.
He took no questions from reporters. He spoke while protesters were being teargassed outside the White House.
He started by describing himself as an “ally of peaceful protesters”, and said that “All Americans, were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd.”
“He will not have died in vain, but we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protestors to be drown out by an angry mob.”
But Trump’s speech quickly took a turn.
Trump said he has “strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers, that we dominate the streets, mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions are are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property,” he said. “We will end it now.”
He suggested he may invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which enables a president to deploy the military to deal with civil disorder.
He said the 7pm curfew in Washington DC would be “strictly enforced”. Calm and peaceful protests were continuing in DC after the curfew, at the time of publishing.
Following the remarks, he walked to St John’s Church, where he held a bible, posed for a photo opportunity and labelled America the greatest country in the world. Reporters tweeted the church was cleared of peaceful protesters prior to the photo op.
The New York Times has released audio of a private conference call in which Trump called protesters “terrorists”, and warned America’s governors that they would look like “jerks” if they failed to arrest and imprison protesters.
“America is founded upon the rule of law,” Trump said today. “It is the basis of our prosperity, our freedom and our very way of life, but where there is no law, there is no opportunity, where there is no justice there is no Liberty, where there is no safety there is no future. We must never give in to anger or hatred if malice or violence rains, then none of us is free.”
“By far, our greatest days are ahead.”