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Trump says he will deploy the military unless state authorities stop ongoing protests

A post-mortem found that George Floyd died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.

Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church, which was set on fire during protests on Sunday night, across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church, which was set on fire during protests on Sunday night, across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Image: Patrick Semansky/PA

Updated Jun 2nd 2020, 7:47 AM

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has described himself as the “president of law and order” as he threatened to deploy the military if state governors did not halt ongoing violent protests across the United States.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said: “First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now.”

He denounced “acts of domestic terrorism” after nationwide protests against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer, devolved into days of violent riots across the country.

Trump slammed protests in Washington in particular where some properties and monuments have been vandalised as police struggled to disperse crowds.

What happened in the city last night was a total disgrace,” he said. “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 wanton destruction of property.”

He called on State governors to “dominate the streets” as he announced he would be implemented a 213-year-old federal law - the 1807 Insurrection Act – that would allow him to deploy active-duty troops in response to the protests across the US. 

“Today I have recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets,” he said.

“If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

It follows six straight days of unrest set off by the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis, with curfews now imposed in New York City and Los Angeles due to a coast-to-coast demonstrations over police killings of black people.

Earlier on Monday, a medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying his heart stopped as police restrained him and suppressed his neck.

A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with third-degree murder in the case, and three other officers have been fired.

“These are not acts of peaceful protests, these are acts of domestic terror,” Trump said, speaking at the White House as tear gas was fired on protesters outside.

Minutes before Trump began speaking, police and National Guard soldiers began aggressively forcing back hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered across the street from the White House.

As Trump spoke, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding. As the crowd of protesters grew, US attorney general William Barr arrived in the area to inspect the demonstrations and the swarm of law enforcement.

At the end of his address, Trump announced he was going to pay respects at “a very, very special place”. 

He then headed on foot to St John’s Church, across the street from the White House. Known as the Church of the Presidents, it was hit with graffiti and partially damaged by fire during unrest on Sunday.

Trump, who rarely attends church, held up a Bible and gathered a group of advisers to pose for photos.

“We have a great country,” he declared just outside the church, where he posed for several minutes. 

trump Source: Patrick Semansky/PA

white-house-rose-garden-statement-president-trump Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

The moment was almost immediately decried by the president’s critics.

“He’s using the American military against the American people,” tweeted Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.

“He tear-gassed peaceful protesters and fired rubber bullets. For a photo. For our children, for the very soul of our country, we must defeat him,” he said.

There were similar comments from New York governor Andrew Cuomo, with whom Trump has repeatedly clashed over  Covid-19.

“The president is calling out the American military against American citizens,” he tweeted.

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“He used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church. It’s all just a reality TV show for this president. Shameful.” 

Washington’s Episcopalian bishop, Marian Budde, said she was “outraged” at the church visit, which she said Trump did not have permission for.

Post-mortem examination

Trump’s announcement came after a medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide, in an incident seen in a viral video that has sparked protests across the US.

“Decedent experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s),” the report read.

Under “other significant conditions” it said Floyd suffered from heart disease and hypertension, and listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.

A post-mortem examination commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, the family’s lawyers have said.

The examination found the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and weight on his back made it hard to breathe, lawyer Ben Crump said at a news conference.

The family’s procedure differs from the official post-mortem as described in a criminal complaint against the officer.

That autopsy included the effects of being restrained, along with underlying health issues and potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system, but also said it found nothing “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation”.

The officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter and is in custody in a state prison, and three other officers have been fired.

- Additional reporting from Press Association

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Adam Daly

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