US President Donald Trump has been condemned for a “shameful” act that saw the military used to push back peaceful protesters for the leader’s “photo opportunity”.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was shocked when he saw Mr Trump leave the White House on Sunday (local time) to walk to St John’s Church, which was damaged by fire amid riots, to pose with a Bible.
“The president wants to make it a reality TV show of God and country, ‘call out the military and then I go to church and hold up a Bible’,” he told CNN.
Hordes of peaceful demonstrators gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House to protest the death of black man George Floyd, who was killed in police custody when an officer kneeled on his neck as he gasped and said “I can’t breathe”.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with murder but the other three officers involved were not prosecuted.
“What the president today did was call out the American military against American citizens – that’s what they did,” Governor Cuomo said.
“They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest which everyone watched on TV just so he could have a photo op of walking to a church. When was the last time you saw the American military called out against Americans?”
Governor Cuomo said he was shocked when at the end of a press conference Mr Trump walked towards the church through the path cleared by military officers using tear gas and pepper spray projectiles.
“I’ve seen a lot of things, but i was shocked at what they did. I was shocked at the force they used to move the protesters who could not have been more peaceful, and from their signs, all there to make legitimate points,” he said.
“It was shameful, really truly shameful.”
‘Wake up America’: Call for change in George Floyd aftermath
The governor said it was a largely white crowd of young and peaceful protesters offended by the death of George Floyd.
“They should be, it’s actually a beautiful thing, people across the nation are saying enough is enough after what happened to Mr Floyd,” he told CNN.
“You do have in these situations people who exploit the moment with criminal activity and looting and extremist groups that pose anarchy, yes, but the protesters themselves have been making a very valid point, ‘wake up America, we’re killing people based on the colour of their skin’, and that is a real issue.”
Governor Cuomo said the majority of people were making a valid point and the US could finally end discrimination and abuse by police.
He said he was old enough to remember being in Los Angeles for the aftermath of the beating by police of American construction worker Rodney King in 1991, and Eric Garner, an African-American living in New York City who died of asthma caused by an officer’s chokehold in 2014.
“How many people have to die, and the names change, but the colour stays the same,” Governor Cuomo said.
“And it’s right, enough is enough, let’s take this moment and actually change.”
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