Donald Trump calls Minneapolis protesters 'thugs' and threatens to shoot looters

'I can't stand back and watch this happen to a great American City'

Adam Withnall
Friday 29 May 2020 07:37 BST
Minneapolis police station set on fire in George Floyd riots

The US president Donald Trump has lashed out at those protesting in Minneapolis over the death of an unarmed black man in police custody, calling those involved in a third night of street clashes “thugs”.

Mr Trump said he would not “stand back and watch this happen to a great American City”, adding that he had spoken to Minnesota governor Tim Waltz and told him “the military is with him all the way”.

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Mr Trump warned. Twitter later added a message to the post, saying that it "violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence".

Protesters in Minneapolis are calling for criminal charges to be brought against four police officers who were involved in the arrest of 46-year-old George Floyd on Monday night. Mr Floyd died in custody after telling officers “I can’t breathe”, with video of the incident showing one policeman stood over Mr Floyd with his knee in his kneck. All four officers have been dismissed from their posts.

Earlier on Thursday night, cheering protesters torched a police station after it was abandoned by the retreating force, while violent clashes have also spread to the twin city of St Paul.

A police spokesperson confirmed officers had fully evacuated the 3rd Precinct station, the focus of many of the protests, “in the interest of the safety of our personnel” shortly after 10pm.

Mr Trump blamed the clashes on what he called the “total lack of leadership” in the city, criticising “ the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey”.

Mr Frey has joined protesters in calling for a criminal investigation of Mr Floyd’s death, while appealing for calm. He also requested the National Guard on Thursday.

In response, Governor Walz activated the state's troops and declared the situation a "peacetime emergency".

He said looting and vandalism was causing damage to many businesses, including those owned by minorities, and urged protests to remain peaceful.

"George Floyd's death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction," he said in a statement.

Moments after pictures emerged of the 3rd Precinct station burning, the Guard tweeted that it had deployed 500 troops across the city and that its "key objective" was to allow firefighters to do their work safely.

Mr Floyd's death has deeply shaken Minneapolis and sparked protests in cities across the US.

And while fires were set in several locations across the city on Thursday night, elsewhere in Minneapolis thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets in a call for justice.

Erika Atson, 20, was among thousands who gathered peacefully outside government offices in downtown Minneapolis. Many protesters wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there were few attempts at social distancing.

Atson, who is black, described seeing her 14- and 11-year-old brothers tackled by Minneapolis police years ago because officers mistakenly presumed the boys had guns. She said she had been at "every single protest" since Mr Floyd's death and worried about raising children who could be vulnerable in police encounters.

"We don't want to be here fighting against anyone," she told the Associated Press. "We don't want anyone to be hurt. We don't want to cause any damages. We just want the police officer to be held accountable."

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