WASHINGTON: The White House went into a lock down in Washington DC, the CNN headquarters in Atlanta was vandalized, and a protester and police officer were killed in gunfire during clashes in California and Michigan respectively on Friday as the United States was roiled by civil unrest for the fourth successive day after a black man was allegedly kneed to death by a white police officer earlier in the week.
The military has been asked to standby for quick deployment in violence-stricken regions even as US President Donald Trump, rather than calm frayed tempers, threatened to unleash “vicious dogs” on protestors and appeared to invite his followers to the White House to counter demonstrators who clashed with Secret Service personnel outside.
“The professionally managed so-called “protesters” at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble. The @SecretService handled them easily. Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” Trump said in one of several incendiary tweets on Saturday morning, even as protests raged across nearly 30 US cities.
Since there was no “MAGA night” scheduled at the White House on Saturday, some commentators took the tweet as a sign that the President was inviting his militant supporters to come and counter the protestors.
The tweet was reported to Twitter by critics who said Trump is trying to use his base as his “personal vigilante army” and the message amounted to an incitement to violence. Some Trump supporters responded to the President’s tweet saying they are ready (to come to the White House).
In several earlier tweets, Trump seemed to pour gasoline on the fire with more threats against protestors, while bragging about the power and the safety he enjoys behind the protective shield obtained with taxpayer money.
“Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. @SecretService. They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe. They let the “protesters” scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone…got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them,” the U.S President said in the first of such tweets mocking the protestors.
“The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic. Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence,” he boasted, warning, “If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least.”
The reference to unleashing “vicious dogs” was seen as yet another throwback to America’s racial politics of the 1960s, like his use of the expression “when the looting begins, the shooting begins,” on Thursday. Both phrases were employed by racist white supremacists in the South (notably George Wallace and Bull Connor in Alabama) during the civil rights protests. Trump claimed on Friday that he was unaware of the origins of the expression although it was same one used by white segregationists in the 60s.
Trump also claimed that “Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action,” and quoted an unnamed one as saying, “We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it, and…good practice.”
“As you saw last night, they were very cool & very professional. Never let it get out of hand. Thank you!” he tweeted, adding that “On the bad side, the DC Mayor,@MurielBowser, who is always looking for money & help, wouldn’t let the DC Police get involved. “Not their job.” Nice!”
The DC Police incidentally does not have jurisdiction over White House security, which is the remit of the U.S Secret Service.
Trump’s relentless aggravation has invited criticism from a range of public figures, including many from the entertainment world that the President sees as a left-liberal bastion.
“After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’??? We will vote you out in November,” the singer-actress Taylor Swift said in a tweet.
Trump also appeared to gloat over protestors vandalizing CNN headquarters in Atlanta, retweeting a follower who said, “In an ironic twist of fate, CNN HQ is being attacked by the very riots they promoted as noble & just. Oops”
Meanwhile, the white cop who is at the center of the episode that has led to the protests is now in detention, facing charges of third degree murder and manslaughter. Derek Chauvin pressed down his knee on the neck of George Lloyd for as long as eight minutes, even as the 45-year old African-American gasped “I can’t breathe.”
The criminal complaint filed against him says, “The defendant had his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr Floyd was non-responsive.”