President Donald Trump raged against those demonstrating in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck. Trump called protesters “thugs” and threatened a violent intervention in a series of after-midnight tweets early Friday.
“Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way.”
“Any difficulty and we will assume control,” he continued, “but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter later applied a “glorifying violence” label to Trump’s second tweet, which it said had violated its rules.
Trump’s remarks are a stark contrast to those made during another demonstration, one involving white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, which resulted in the killing of counterprotester Heather Heyer. Trump expressed sympathy for the right-wing extremist protesters at the time, saying there were “some very fine people” on both sides. His comments sparked widespread controversy.
The president’s new threats came during the third day of protests in Minneapolis over Floyd’s death. The demonstrations broke out after the release of a shocking video showing Floyd’s arrest. In the clip, Officer Derek Chauvin is seen holding the handcuffed man to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleads, “Please, man, I can’t breathe. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.”
Floyd’s eyes are seen closed later in the video, and he appears unresponsive after he has been pinned on the ground for nearly eight minutes. Officers later called an ambulance, but he was declared dead at the hospital. Paramedics said they spent nearly an hour trying to revive him but said he had arrived without a pulse.
In addition to Chauvin, three other officers — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng — were at the scene, but they made no apparent effort to intervene. All four were fired on Tuesday.
Protests grew increasingly violent in the Minneapolis region on Thursday and some demonstrators broke into a police station, setting it on fire and forcing personnel to evacuate. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s National Guard, which said it was sending 500 troops to the city to help quell the protests.
Trump said he had spoken with Walz and “told him that the Military is with him all the way.” It’s unclear if the president intends to send more troops to the city should demonstrations continue.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, whom Trump targeted in his message early Friday, has urged residents to protest peacefully and called for charges to be brought against the officers in the case.
“If you’re feeling that sadness, that anger, it’s not only understandable, it’s right. It’s a reflection of the truth that our Black community has lived,” Frey said at a news conference Thursday. “We must believe that we can be better than we have been.”
Earlier Thursday, Trump said he felt “very, very badly” about Floyd’s death, noting the video was a “very shocking sight.”
This story has been updated with Twitter’s response to Trump’s tweet.
Lee Moran contributed to this story.