'Just stop talking': Trump criticised by Democratic mayors of cities with large George Floyd protests

Pockets of violence, looting, and vandalism have marked nationwide protests over death of George Floyd

Griffin Connolly
Washington
Sunday 31 May 2020 16:22
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The Democratic mayors of major American cities are lighting into Donald Trump for his controversial tweets and statements surrounding the nationwide protests of the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis last week.

"He's making it worse," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"This is not about using military force. This is about where we are in America. We are beyond a tipping point in this country, and his rhetoric only inflames that, and he should sometimes just stop talking," Ms Bottoms said, responding to a tweet by the president over the weekend urging "Liberal Governors and Mayors" to get "MUCH tougher" or the feds would begin using "the unlimited power of our Military."

Mr Floyd, 46, died on 25 May after a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for several minutes even though Mr Floyd did not have a weapon and complained he couldn't breathe.

Mr Chauvin has been arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.

The ensuing protests against police brutality over the last several days in Minneapolis and other major US cities such as Atlanta, Brooklyn, Washington DC, and Chicago have led to heated confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement, some of which have broken out into small pockets of violence. There were several instances of looting, vandalism, and arson of entire buildings over the weekend.

Thousands of Americans in cities all across the country were hit with pepper spray, tear gas, or police batons over the weekend. Local journalists have been fired upon with rubber bullets, and a CNN reporter and his production crew were arrested in Minneapolis on Friday for shooting live film in a part of the city that the Minnesota state patrol was trying to block off to the public. Some protesters gathered outside CNN headquarters in Atlanta, with some breaking its glass windows and tagging profanities with spray paint.

Mr Trump's initial response to the protests antagonised people who have turned them violent. The president fired off a series of tweets with racially coded language that also threatened to unleash federally-sanctioned violence on protesters. Twitter has flagged the tweets as violating the app's rules because they are "glorifying violence."

"These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen," Mr Trump tweeted. The president said he had spoken with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and offered military assistance should the state need it.

"Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!" the president capped his tweet.

Ms Bottoms, who issued an impassioned plea on Friday for people not to stop looting and vandalising buildings and stores in Atlanta, is hardly the only Democratic mayor to take aim at Mr Trump over his recent statements on the protests arising over the death last week of George Floyd, 46.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, whom Mr Trump singled out for criticism in a series of tweets on Saturday, has lamented the president's response to the protests.

“I think that the president has a responsibility to help calm the nation, and he can start by not sending divisive tweets that are meant to hearken to the segregationist past of our country,” Ms Bowser said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Ms Bowser often shies away from directly criticising the president, who has sizeable input into the district's budget as the executive of the federal government.

But Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday that Ms Bowser "is always looking for money & help" and "wouldn’t let the D.C. Police get involved" to keep protesters in check at demonstrations at the White House.

That apparently pushed the DC mayor over the edge, compelling her to respond with fiery tweets of her own.

"I call upon our city and our nation to exercise great restraint even while this President continues to try to divide us," Ms Bowser tweeted.

"While he hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/ people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd & hundreds of years of institutional racism," she wrote, adding that Mr Trump is "just a scared man."

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had choice words for the president, telling reporters that his goal is to "polarise and destabilise local government and to inflame racists' urges. And we can absolutlely not let him prevail.

Ms Lightfoot, like Ms Bottoms and Ms Bowser, is a black woman who leads a major metropolitan area with numerous historically black neighbourhoods and institutions.

"I will code what I really want to say to Donald Trump... It's two words. It begins with 'f,' and it ends with 'you,'" Ms Lightfoot said.

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