- As protests against police brutality sweep through American cities following the death of George Floyd, advisers have urged Trump to moderate his rhetoric, reported The New York Times.
- The president has been accused of stoking unrest with tweets threatening tough measures against protesters, including one which was screened by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”
- But the pleas of advisers to promote unity are proving ineffective, said the report, with the president continuing to target Democrats and the “radical left” in messages on Saturday.
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President Donald Trump is ignoring top advisers who want him to tone down his rhetoric and emphasize a message of unity as protests and riots sweep America following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
As protests broke out into rioting and clashes with police in American cities, including Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, and Washington DC, Saturday, advisers were counseling the president to “modulate his rhetoric,” reported The New York Times, citing administration sources.
—Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 30, 2020
The counsel was ignored and by Saturday night, reported the Times, advisers had dropped plans for Trump to attempt to quell the crisis by addressing the nation on live TV, fearing it could worsen tensions.
On Friday, Trump was accused of stoking the unrest that erupted in Minneapolis, where Floyd died last week, when he tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The president was quoting Miami cop Walter Headley whose racist policies sparked race riots in Miami in 1968 — and in an unprecedented step, Twitter restricted the message’s visibility for “glorifying violence.”
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Protesters stand in front of the 3rd precinct police building as it burns during a protest on May 28, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Today marks the third day of ongoing protests after the police killing of George Floyd.
Early Saturday, Trump had abruptly shifted his tone. In remarks at the launch of the SpaceX rocket in Florida, the president said: “I stand before you as a friend and ally to every American seeking justice and peace, and I stand before you in firm opposition to anyone exploiting this tragedy to loot, rob, attack, and menace. Healing, not hatred; justice, not chaos, are the mission at hand.”
But in further messages, on Saturday, Trump reverted to stirring partisan and racial divisions, and relishing the prospect of violent reprisals against demonstrators who broke the law.
On Saturday, the president tweeted that demonstrators gathering outside the White House would face “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” if they attempted to breach the perimeter of the executive residence.
DC mayor Muriel Browser accused Trump of stirring up memories of segregationist violence. He said the message was “no subtle reminder to African Americans of segregationists who let dogs out on women, children and innocent people in the South.”
When asked in Florida if he was concerned that he might be exacerbating the situation when he called for his supporters to form a counter-demonstration outside the White House that night, Trump remarked: “No not at all … I have no idea if they’re going to be here.
—David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) May 30, 2020
“By the way, they love African Americans, they love black people. MAGA loves the black people.”
Critics were quick to highlight the line the president drew between his supporters and black Americans.
On Twitter, he sought to blame the unrest on political opponents and doubled down on attacks on the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey.
“The National Guard has been released in Minneapolis to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do. Should have been used 2 days ago & there would not have been damage & Police Headquarters would not have been taken over & ruined. Great job by the National Guard. No games!” tweeted the president.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2020
In fact, the National Guard was activated in Minneapolis two days ago, but the president may have been referring to a street clearing operation carried out by the National Guard in the city on Saturday night.
“How come all of these places that defend so poorly are run by Liberal Democrats? Get tough and fight (and arrest the bad ones). STRENGTH!” he tweeted.
He later wrote: “ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!” — continuing attacks on the radical anti-fascist group that has become one of the favored bogeymen of conservative rhetoric.
He also continued attacks on the media — whom in a tweet he again labeled the “Enemy of the People”, as reports emerged of protesters and police targetting reporters covering the demonstrations in several US cities.
“Much more ‘disinformation’ coming out of CNN, MSDNC, @nytimes and @washingtonpost, by far, than coming out of any foreign country, even combined,” Trump wrote. “Fake News is the Enemy of the People!”