Amid racial unrest across the nation, President Donald Trump on Monday declared himself “the president of law and order” and threatened to deploy the United States military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests.
As Trump spoke, an incredible TV split screen developed around the White House. While he addressed the nation in the White House's idyllic Rose Garden, a series of military vehicles rolled out front on Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters at Lafayette Park.
Trump said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands" of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests. Loud tear gas explosions could be heard as authorities moved what appeared to be peaceful protests in the park. The escalation came just after Attorney General William Barr came to the park to to survey the demonstrators.
Minutes after his speech, Trump made a brief visit outside the 200-year-old church near the White House that was set on fire over the weeekend.
Law enforcement cleared protesters out of the area with tear gas before Trump’s visit. Tear gas canisters could be heard exploding as Trump spoke in the Rose Garden. He then walked over to the church. The protesters appeared to be acting peacefully before they were dispersed by force.
According to senior defense officials, between 600 and 800 National Guard members from five states were being sent to Washington to provide assistance. Those troops were either already on the ground or will arrive by midnight.
Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from the Civil War, which allows the use of active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.
The officials said that some of the National Guard in D.C. will be armed and others will not. They said that the D.C. guard members do not have non-lethal weapons. The military police that are visible in the city are members of the Guard.
The country has been beset by angry demonstrations for the past week in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the U.S. since the 1960s. Spurred in part by Floyd's death, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killings of black people by police.
In a conference call Monday with the nation's governors. Trump berated most of them as “weak” for not cracking down harder on the lawlessness that has convulsed cities from coast to coast.
A medical examiner on Monday classified George Floyd’s death as a homicide, saying his heart stopped as police restrained him and suppressed his neck, in a widely seen video that has sparked protests across the nation.
An autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, the family’s attorneys said Monday.
A Minneapolis police officer has been charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death, and three other officers were fired. Bystander video showed the officer, Derek Chauvin, holding his knee on Floyd’s neck despite the man's cries that he couldn't breathe until he eventually stopped moving.
TEGNA Staff contributed to this report.