US President Donald Trump has warned he may be forced to deploy the US army across the nation after protests triggered by George Floyd’s death brought further unrest to Washington and other major cities.
Mr Trump said he took “immediate” presidential action by making available the resources of the US military to stop “destruction” and crack down on “domestic terror” on US streets.
“In recent days, our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, Antifa and others,” he told reporters on Monday evening.
“Americans, my first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people. I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation. And that is exactly what I will do.”
Mr Trump said he is deploying “thousands and thousands” of military personnel as protests turned ugly in the US capital.
Military vehicles were seen on Washington streets, while further National Guard personnel from other states has been drafted in, CNN reported.
He said he wouldn’t hesitate in ordering the same in other cities if governments failed to deploy the National Guard in “significant numbers” to “dominate the streets”. He said he would send in the US military to “quickly solve the problem for them”.
“I want the organisers of this terror, to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail,” he warned.
“All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd, my administration is fully committed that for George and his family justice will be served. He will not have died in vain.
“But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”
Explosions ring out prior to Trump’s address
Several explosions, understood to be tear gas aimed at protesters, rang out as reporters waited to hear from Mr Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House.
The bold move from Mr Trump comes after chaos erupted in the suburbs surrounding the White House on Sunday night (local time), with fires set alight and protesters filmed smashing cars and shopfronts.
Mr Trump called the scenes in the capital a “total disgrace”.
“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.
The protests reportedly forced Mr Trump to take shelter in an underground bunker.
Leaders reject Trump’s threat
After Mr Trump’s threat to deploy the US army, leaders across the country voiced their concerns over such measures.
Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker rejected the potential move, accusing the president of “fanning the flames”.
"The fact is that the president has created an incendiary moment here,"he told reporters.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said “no thank you” to the warning, insisting only a “small minority” of protesters were responsible for the ugly scenes accompanying the largely peaceful protests.
"The looting, the criminal activity is intolerable, and from a law enforcement point of view you need to weed them out, but they are intermingled with protesters," Mr Cuomo said.
"But what the President today did was he called out the American military against American citizens."
To deploy troops across the US, Mr Trump would have to invoke the 213-year-old Insurrection Act, which was last in play during the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.
Such a move has rarely been seen since the 1960s civil rights era, NBC reported.
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