President Donald Trump pressed his advisers and Pentagon officials about sending tanks and military equipment as part of a show of force against protests over the death of George Floyd, according to a new report.
While pushing governors in a conference call to “dominate” the protests that have lasted eight days, and threatening to “put down” violent riots by deploying the US military, Mr Trump reportedly sought specific information on the sort of armoured vehicles and weaponry his administration could send to states across the country.
A senior administration official told the Daily Beast the president was enquiring about “the kind of hardware” that could be deployed amid protests when he mentioned “tanks” and other military units, including aircraft.
Pentagon officials who spoke to the news outlet said they never believed the Department of Defence would adopt the aggressive approach Mr Trump outlined in his phone call to governors on Monday, in which he reportedly said about the protests: “It's a movement. If you don't put it down, it will get worse and worse.”
During the call, Mr Trump encouraged state officials to “arrest people” and said “they have to go to jail for long periods of time”, according to NPR.
“If people are running amok, you have to dominate. If you aren't dominating, you're wasting your time,” the president reportedly said. “They're going to run over you; you're going to look like a bunch of jerks."
The report comes amid mounting criticism over the Trump administration’s response to protests over the death of Mr Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man killed at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. The officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Mr Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as he pleaded that he could not breathe, in cellphone footage that was uploaded online and sparked the nationwide protests that have persisted ever since.
Mr Trump has sought to embody the project of a “law and order” president, requesting a military flyover above protests in Washington, the Associated Press reported. The Daily Beast also reported that military helicopters were ordered to fly low over the protests in the nation’s capital.
The District of Columbia National Guard has announced an investigation into the low flying helicopters after witnesses reported seeing at least one aircraft above protests that had Red Cross markings.
Red Cross markings typically indicate an aircraft unit is meant for humanitarian aid, while the helicopters appeared to be used as part of the administration’s show of force against protestors.
Over 20,000 National Guard troops have already been deployed amid the protests, as the president continued urging states to request additional military assistance.
“I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the national guard in sufficient numbers,” the president said earlier in the week. “If a city or a 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.”
However, one official told the Daily Beast that Mr Trump’s mentioning of tanks may not have been all that serious, saying: “I think that is just one of the military words he knows.”
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