Military trucks seen arriving at White House after Trump tells governors to be tough on protests

President has urged state and local leaders to "dominate" the streets of their cities with law enforcement presence

Griffin Connolly
Monday 01 June 2020 23:58 BST
Trump claims Minneapolis a 'laughing stock' for George Floyd protests

Several military trucks carrying National Guardsmen in tan uniforms and helmets were seen entering White House grounds shortly after 5 p.m. on the East Coast on Monday, as the nation's capital prepares for a fourth consecutive evening of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

"At 5:05 pm, I counted 9 two and a half ton military trucks carrying troops in tan uniforms and helmets pull off 17th Street into the White House grounds," Time magazine reporter Brian Bennett tweeted.

The vehicles were later positioned on the North Lawn of the White House, behind the gate facing Lafayette Square, where thousands of people have gathered in recent days to protest police brutality after Mr Floyd's death.

"Around 5:15 pm, that line of military trucks drove through the narrow lane between the West Wing and the EEOB, out the north gate, turned right and rolled in front of the White House fence that faces Lafayette Square Park," the Time reporter later tweeted.

Law enforcement tried setting up barricades at Lafayette Square over the weekend, leading to confrontations with demonstrators that at times turned physical. Law enforcement personnel at times fired rubber bullets and used pepper spray to disperse crowds.

An active-duty battalion of military police has been deployed to the capital from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, CNN has reported.

The military police unit of some 200 to 250 troops is expected to provide security for the White House but will not be used to confront protesters and help with law enforcement, officials told CNN.

The unit is expected to arrive in Washington as early as Monday, per CNN.

Donald Trump has spent a good portion of his Monday calling on state and local leaders to "dominate" the streets of their cities with National Guard and police units to deter the pockets of vandalism and looting that have marked many of the protests across the country in recent days.

In a phone call with governors on Monday, the president underscored the fact that he is more focused on maintaining a message of law and order than he is on sympathising with the non-violent masses protesting police brutality.

"You have to dominate," Mr Trump told the governors.

"If you don't dominate, you're wasting your time," he said, adding that he believed most of them were "weak."

While Mr Trump has said he will "stand with" the family of Mr Floyd — who died last week in Minneapolis after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and back for several minutes despite Mr Floyd's pleas that he couldn't breathe — the prevailing message from his Twitter feed in recent days and call with governors on Monday was that law enforcement must stand strong against violent agitators.

The president has said he will designate the loose collection of militant left-wing, anti-fascist demonstrators known as "Antifa" as a terrorist organisation and threatened to deploy US military units to areas of the country where protest have gotten out of hand.

Mr Trump, Attorney General William Barr and many congressional Republicans have blamed both Antifa and far-right demonstrators for taking advantage of the protests to sow chaos by looting and vandalising buildings and public grounds.

Local Democratic leaders in Minneapolis and elsewhere, meanwhile, have highlighted the presence white supremacists who have incited violence at otherwise peaceful protests.

Mr Chauvin — the Minneapolis police officer who was videoed kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck, touching off the recent wave of activism against police brutality — was arrested last week and charged at the state level with third-degree murder.

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