As media crowded around an empty White House stage awaiting US President Donald Trump, sounds that were described as scenes from a “war zone” rang out through the rose garden.
The US has been in a state of unrest since violent riots broke out following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody after he was arrested over a suspected counterfeit $20 note.
Video emerged of his arrest, with officer Derek Chauvin seen digging his knee into My Floyd’s neck as he gasps for air and says he can’t breathe. The officer was charged with murder but three colleagues involved in the arrest were not prosecuted. All four have been fired.
LISTEN: As reporters waited for Donald Trump to address the nation, loud explosions ring around the rose garden of the White House as police clash with protesters outside pic.twitter.com/RxTd4Sqre7— Mike Hughes (@MikeHughes_) June 1, 2020
As Trump later spoke, an incredible scenes unfolded around the White House. While he addressed the nation in the White House’s idyllic rose garden, a series of military vehicles rolled out front on Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters across the road at Lafayette Park.
One US reporter wrote on Twitter that the scenes outside the White House looked like a “war zone”.
Peaceful protesters ‘tear gassed’ outside White House
Another journalist, White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, wrote on Twitter that peaceful protesters were being tear gassed outside of the White House gates.
“I confirmed because I was tear gassed along with them,” she said.
Here is what was happening outside the White House as President Trump was giving his Rose Garden address and saying he is an “ally of all peaceful protestors.” Peaceful protestors being tear gassed outside of the WH gates. I confirmed because I was teargassed along with them. pic.twitter.com/yg0wbSrIXn— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) June 1, 2020
NBC News reports National Guard were firing pepper spray projectiles at a crowd in a Washington DC street in an attempt to disperse protesters.
One described the sounds heard from the rose garden as “surreal”.
“This is getting really f***ing scary. They’re attacking peaceful protesters,” another said.
Times Magazine contributor Jay Newton-Small told the ABC the whole situation had “flipped on its head”.
“It went from being this peaceful protest to being this incredibly violent, incredibly contentious scene, where you had police firing pepper guns and rubber bullets at protesters, and you saw protesters lighting fires,” he said.
“There were two fires going at Lafayette Park, which is right in front of the White House, and you also saw them light St John’s Church on fire.”
Trump vows to deploy military on protesters
As law enforcement including officers on horseback moved on protesters, Trump spoke in the rose garden and vowed to end unrest in major cities across the nation “now”, saying that he would deploy the military if state governors refused to call out the National Guard.
One wrote on Twitter it seemed “Trump had just declared war on his own country”.
As the police action against protesters gave him safe passage, Trump walked from the White House to the nearby St John's Church along with officials including US Attorney General William Barr, where they posed for photos as the president held up a Bible.
Anti-police brutality marches and rallies have turned violent after dark each night over the past week.
Chaos came to the steps of the White House on Sunday night (local time) with reports the president had been forced into an underground bunker.
‘Do this peacefully’: George Floyd’s brother pleads
On Monday George Floyd’s brother Terrence pleaded for peace on the streets and told demonstrators destruction was “not going to bring my brother back at all”.
“Let’s switch it up, y’all. Let’s switch it up. Do this peacefully, please,” he said from the site where his brother was pinned to the pavement.
“If I’m not over here messing up my community, then what are you all doing?”
with Reuters and AP
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