State leaders rejected President Donald Trump’s threat to unleash the military against Americans protesting the death of George Floyd on Monday, with many accusing Trump of “inflaming” the situation rather than working to reckon with growing national outrage.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said the president had responded to the protests over the Minneapolis police killing of Floyd in “precisely the wrong way” just moments after federal officers violently forced those gathered near the White House away with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. Trump, standing in the Rose Garden with explosions sounding in the background, vowed to crack down on anti-racist demonstrations and threatened to mobilize “all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting.” He specifically called on all governors to deploy the National Guard and establish an “overwhelming law enforcement presence.”
But Pritzker and other governors roundly pushed back against those calls.
“I reject the notion that the federal government can send troops into the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said on CNN. “The president has created an incendiary moment here... His rhetoric is inflaming passions.”
“He should stay out of our business, Pritzker added. “Every day he has inflamed racial tensions.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) echoed that call shortly before New York City enacted its first curfew in more than 70 years. Protests throughout the city had been largely peaceful on Monday, but some looting and vandalism was spreading through retail districts as night set in.
“I say thank you but no thank you,” Cuomo told CNN. “They used the American military to push back a peaceful protest, which everyone watched on TV, just so he could have a photo-op of him walking to a church. When was the last time you saw the American military called up against Americans?”
“Is that Americana? Is that making America great? I don’t think so,” the governor said.
In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis (D) released a joint statement with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock condemning Trump’s call for military intervention.
“There is no need for the deployment of US troops to maintain order in our city,” the pair said. “The President’s threat to deploy federal troops is counterproductive and will only stoke the potential for worse violence and destruction. Denver is not Little Rock in 1957, and Donald Trump is not President Eisenhower,” they said, invoking the use of soldiers to protect Black children entering a newly integrated school.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a harsh critic of the president, also blasted the White House, saying he hoped no soldier or citizen would be harmed by what he called a “reckless fit.”
“This president has repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing and shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
Trump has clashed with governors repeatedly as the protests over Floyd’s death swell. In a call with state leaders on Monday, the president called them “weak” and urged them to arrest any demonstrators and “put them in jail for 10 years.”
“You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” the president said in the private call, which was obtained by HuffPost. “They’re going to run over you. You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”
Many cities across the nation have instituted curfews in an attempt to limit any violence and destruction of property, but clashes with police — weaponized with tear gas, rubber bullets and riot gear — continued into Monday night.
The unrest began after the May 25 death of Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, unarmed and on the ground when a white police officer pushed his knee into his neck for nine minutes. Three other officers with him did not intervene or try to aid Floyd as he died.