Protests near the White House at the death of George Floyd and police racism grew so intense on Friday night that Donald Trump was taken to an underground bunker as a precaution, according to reports.
CNN quotes sources saying that during the third night of violent clashes between the police and protesters, the president, the first lady and their son Barron were all taken to the bunker as part of an emergency protocol for close to an hour.
White House staffers, meanwhile, have been cautioned that if they have to attend work on Monday, they should hide their entry passes until they reach an entry point guarded by the Secret Service.
Mr Trump’s apparent retreat to the White House’s Presidential Emergency Operations Centre came during protests that saw people throwing objects at police and setting fire to at least one car. The police, gathered in their hundreds in Lafayette Park, responded with pepper spray and physical riot control tactics.
Protests have been raging in Washington, DC for several nights now, with demonstrators angered over the death of Mr Floyd, who died in Minneapolis a week ago after a police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. He had been apprehended for a minor offence.
Washington mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, has called for calm and ordered a citywide curfew. She also tweeted this weekend that: “We need leaders who recognise pain and in times of despair can provide us a sense of calm and hope. Instead, what we’ve got in the last two days from the White House is the glorification of violence against American citizens.”
The president’s tweets on Sunday night included several expressions of frustration that cities have not called in the National Guard to deal with the rise in violence, including looting and vandalism. Mr Trump also sent out several brief, capitalised messages with no context: “STRENGTH!” read one, “LAW & ORDER!” another.
“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors,” he wrote in one of his Sunday missives. “These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!”
He also complained that the mainstream media are “doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy”, and claimed that the protests were organised by “ANTIFA led anarchists”.
He has said he will move to designate Antifa, an alliance of left-wing protest groups, as a terrorist organisation, though it is unclear whether he has legal authority to do so. Several governors and mayors have complained that far-right and white supremacists elements are active in the protests as well.
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