George Floyd protests: Trump says ‘MAGA loves the black people’ after being accused of stoking racial violence

President’s suggestion of supporters starting a counterprotest follows his violent warnings against demonstrators

Trump calls protesters ‘thugs’ after George Floyd death in police custody

Donald Trump said he has “no idea” whether a counterprotest with his supporters will face demonstrators after he suggested “MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE” would follow protests in Washington DC in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Asked whether the president was concerned his message stokes racial violence, he said: “No not at all ... I have no idea if they’re going to be here. By the way, they love African Americans, they love black people. MAGA loves the black people.”

His comments followed a string of threats and accusations on Saturday amid growing protests and uproar in American cities following Mr Floyd’s death and the murder charge facing Derek Chauvin, a now-former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling against Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he was pinned to the ground and in handcuffs.

On Friday, the president defended his warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — which Twitter had censored for the company’s rules about messages promoting or glorifying violence — and claimed he was saying “it was spoken as a fact, not as a statement”.

“It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media,” he said on Friday.

The president was criticised for invoking the phrase infamously uttered by a former Miami police chief whose racist and aggressive policing sparked riots in the 1960s.

In a series of threatening messages suggesting that Secret Service agents are eager to inflict violence with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” against protesters who break through fencing outside the White House, the president also criticised Mayor Muriel Bowser, saying she’s “always looking for money and help” and “wouldn’t let the DC Police get involved”.

The US Secret Service has contradicted the president’s claim and confirmed that DC police were on the scene along with US Park Police.

In her rebuke, the mayor wrote: “My police department will always protect DC and all who are in it whether I agree with them (such as those exercising their First Amendment Right) or those I don’t (namely, @realdonaldtrump) ... 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 added: “There are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man. Afraid/alone ... I call upon our city and our nation to exercise great restraint even while this President continues to try to divide us. Our power is in peace, in our voices and ultimately at the ballot box in November.”

His suggestion that his MAGA or “Make America Great Again” supporters may counterprotest also follows warnings from Minnesota officials that opportunist white supremacists and other right-wing groups could be exploiting the chaos in the protests for their own racist means.

The president also blamed “Antifa” and “the radical left” for chaotic scenes at protests, apparently undermining widespread calls for justice and reform after countless episodes of police brutality overwhelming black communities.

Mr Trump has signalled to the US Department of Defence to deploy US military police to Minneapolis, if necessary.

“We have our military ready, willing and able if they ever want to call our military,” the president said on Saturday. “We can have troops on the ground very quickly.”

In her message aimed at Mr Trump, Mayor Bowser quoted Martin Luther King Jr, saying: “It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”

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