US President Donald Trump on Saturday said the National Guard has been called in Minneapolis “to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do” after riots following the death of an African American man in police custody.
The full Minnesota National Guard was activated for the first time since World War Two after four nights of civil unrest following George Floyd’s death. Floyd died on Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, pinned the man’s neck down to the ground with his knee for several minutes.
At least six states have called on the National Guard to get the situation under control amid the raging demonstrations in Minneapolis and other places.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
Trump had warned earlier on Saturday that if the unrest continues in US cities, then the federal government would step in and the military would be used.
He had said, while speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, that the death of Floyd was a “grave tragedy” but warned against surrendering to hostility.
Before that, he had threatened protesters with violence in the morning in a series of tweets commenting on overnight protests near the White House.
Trump first said he had watched the events and celebrated how the Secret Service responded, then wrote that “nobody came close to breaching the fence,” but “if they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
On Thursday night, Trump had vowed that the military would be used to help authorities in Minnesota “assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
His tweets were later hidden by Twitter.
The death of George Floyd on Monday in Minneapolis has sparked demonstrations, some of them violent, in many cities across the United States, including one in Washington on Friday.
The White House was temporarily locked down as hundreds of people gathered on Friday afternoon across the street in Lafayette Square Park.
The Pentagon, in an extraordinary move, said it put military units on a four-hour alert to be ready if requested by Minnesota governor Tim Walz to help keep the peace.
Four police officers involved in the arrest have been fired. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer involved in the death Floyd, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
A bystander video recording showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes, while Floyd was saying that he could not breathe.
Floyd, a Houston native who had worked security for nightclubs, was arrested on suspicion of trying to pass counterfeit money at a store to buy cigarettes on Monday evening. Police said he was unarmed.
An employee who called for help had told a police dispatcher that the suspect appeared to be intoxicated.
In a striking coincidence, Floyd and Chauvin had both worked security at the same Latin nightclub in Minneapolis, though it was unlikely they ever interacted, former owner Maya Santamaria, who sold the El Nuevo Rodeo club in January, told Reuters.
Santamaria said Floyd worked inside the club on certain nights, supporting other staff with security. She said Chauvin, who worked outside the club as an off-duty cop for 16 years, had a reputation for roughing up customers, but she considered him responsible and a friend.
Three other officers fired from the police department with Chauvin on Tuesday are also under criminal investigation in the case, prosecutors said.
The video of Floyd’s arrest – captured by an onlooker’s cellphone as he repeatedly groaned, “please, I can’t breathe” before becoming motionless – triggered an outpouring of rage that civil rights activists said has long simmered in Minneapolis and cities across the country over persistent racial bias in the US criminal justice system.
The US department of justice has made the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into George Floyd’s death a top priority.