Then-President Donald Trump yelled at his staff to “bust some heads and make some arrests” to clear a park close to the White House of Black Lives Matter protesters on 22 June 2020, according to a book by Mr Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
“Upstairs in the Residence, President Trump was growing anxious,” Mr Meadows writes in The Chief’s Chief, which was released on 7 December. “He had given an order for the park to be cleared, and it was not being followed. The various law enforcement agencies that were supposed to be under the command of [then-Attorney General] Bill Barr were clearly not communicating with one another, and it did not seem that a single arrest had yet been made.”
The scene Mr Meadows’ book describes occurred three weeks after Mr Trump’s bible photo op outside St John’s Church in downtown Washington DC. Law enforcement aggressively dispersed racial justice protesters ahead of Mr Trump walking from the White House to the church for that event.
“Fed up, I called President Trump,” Mr Meadows adds in the book about the 22 June episode. “‘It looks like we have a situation out here,’ I said. ‘They’re trying to tear down statues and vandalizing the park. I assume that we have the authority to deploy whatever law enforcement is necessary to fix this?’”
“President Trump had had enough. ‘Not only do you have the authority,’ he said. ‘I want you to go out there and bust some heads and make some arrests. We need to restore order’,” Mr Trump added, according to Mr Meadows.
The former chief of staff writes that he “was not quite prepared to crack anything” but that he “went to the front door of the White House and spoke with the head of the Secret Service. I pointed out that we had orders from President Trump to open up Pennsylvania Avenue”.
“The leaders of these forces were resisting, but it was clear that the officers on the ground felt the same way President Trump did,” Mr Meadows claims. He writes that he walked to Lafayette Park north of the White House “where rioters were loosening bolts” of a statue of President Andrew Jackson.
Historian Daniel Walker Howe has written that Mr Jackson, who served as the seventh president of the US from 1829 to 1837, “expressed his loathing for the abolitionists vehemently, both in public and in private” and that “Jacksonian Democracy … was about the extension of white supremacy across the North American continent”.
Mr Meadows said he “ordered law enforcement surrounding the statue to go in” to prevent the protesters from toppling it.
“‘Now?’ they said. ‘Yes, now!’ I said. ‘Go in. Stop them from taking down that statue’,” Mr Meadows writes.
“A few minutes later, we had officers clearing protestors from the tops of the statue. It was a way of signalling to the mob— which was growing by the minute—that violence would not be tolerated that evening, or ever again—not in our nation’s capital,” the former North Carolina congressman adds.
He writes that Mr Trump kept pushing that message “for the rest of the summer”, adding that it was “especially poignant” on 13 July 2020, during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials.
“Standing in the room that day, watching President Trump express support for these police officers, I was reminded once again how important it was to have a president who was willing to go against the ‘politically correct’ current,” Mr Meadows writes.
This article was amended on 10 December 2021. An earlier version inaccurately reported Mr Meadows’ book as claiming Mr Trump made the ‘bust some heads’ comment on the day of the St John’s Church photo opportunity on 1 June 2020, but the book in fact says the comment was made on a different occasion some three weeks later, on 22 June 2020.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies