President Donald Trump on Friday seemingly urged the shooting of looters in Minnesota, fueling the national unrest sparked by the death of an African-American man in police custody with a call for military violence against U.S. citizens so extraordinary that it was partially obscured by Twitter.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. 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 tweeted minutes before 1 a.m.
In the second part of his message, Trump wrote: “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 but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The president’s early morning post, which came at the beginning of the fourth day of raging protests in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, earned a warning label from Twitter for violating its policies on “glorifying violence.”
But the social media platform “determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” and allowed users to view Trump’s tweet if they chose. Twitter’s communications team also tweeted it had “placed a public interest notice” on the post in part due to the “risk it could inspire similar actions today.”
Protests have cropped up across the country since the arrest Monday and death hours later of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis. A bystander’s video of his encounter with police, which sparked national outrage, showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly pleads for air, eventually becomes motionless and is put onto a gurney by paramedics.
Dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities have boarded up their storefronts to prevent looting, while Minneapolis-based Target announced it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores and the city shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday.
On Thursday night, protesters set fire to the 3rd Precinct Minneapolis police station — which covers the portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested — forcing the department to abandon the building.
On Friday evening, a group of protesters was heading along 14th Street in Washington, D.C., in the direction of the White House, according to a CNN report.
Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, announced Tuesday the firings of the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, and called Wednesday for criminal charges to be brought against Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck.
By Friday afternoon, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin had been arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter. He told reporters at a news briefing in Minneapolis his office was “in the process of continuing to review the evidence,” and revealed that “there may be subsequent charges later.”
Freeman also said the investigation was ongoing and that he anticipates charges will be brought against the other three officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, but his office “felt it appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator.”
Following Freeman’s remarks, Attorney General William Barr announced that “the Department of Justice, including the FBI, are conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated” in Floyd’s case.
The department’s investigation is running “on a separate and parallel track” to the state prosecutor’s work, Barr said in a statement, and that state and federal officials “are working diligently and collaboratively to ensure that any available evidence relevant to these decisions is obtained as quickly as possible.”