As protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted across Minneapolis for the third consecutive night Thursday and continued into the early hours of Friday morning, President Donald Trump—who said very little throughout the week in response to Floyd's death—threatened just after midnight to send the U.S. military to occupy the city with a green light to open fire on demonstrators who damage property.
"I can't stand back and watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership," Trump tweeted. "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 and get the job done right."
"These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen," Trump continued in a second tweet. "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!"
Twitter deemed the latter tweet a violation of the platform's rules against "glorifying violence" and placed it behind a public interest notice.
The President of the United States is threatening to use live fire on his own citizens. https://t.co/POTjkxeTxr
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) May 29, 2020
In response to the president's attack, Frey said during a news conference that "Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis."
"Is this a difficult time period? Yes, but you better be damn sure we're going to get through this," Frey added.
The president's tweets came hours after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, deployed 500 members of the National Guard to Minneapolis as thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets across the city. Late Thursday night, protesters broke into the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct headquarters and set fire to the building.
The Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct was set on fire on Thursday night. pic.twitter.com/J6vjZKoCeQ
— Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto) May 29, 2020
— Keaon Dousti کیان (@KeaonDousti) May 29, 2020
Protesters and Floyd's family are demanding murder charges for the four officers who were on the scene when Floyd was detained Monday for allegedly attempting to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a local grocery store. Video footage that emerged Tuesday morning shows now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the back of Floyd's neck while ignoring the handcuffed man's repeated pleas for his life.
Trump didn't say a word about Floyd's killing for more than 24 hours after the video footage surfaced on social media, leading to the firing of four officers. Speaking to reporters late Thursday afternoon, Trump called the video "a very shocking sight."
"That was a very, very bad thing that I saw," the president said. "I saw it last night and I didn't like it... What I saw was not good. Very bad."
Floyd's killing sparked nationwide outrage and demands for a thorough federal investigation from members of Congress, national civil rights groups, and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
"Nearly six years after Eric Garner cried out 'I can't breathe,' another unarmed black man uttered the same words as he was choked to death over several minutes by police officers in Minneapolis. George Floyd should be alive today—and there is no justification for this inhumane and lethal use of force," the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Black Visions Collective, the Native American Community Development Institute, and UNIDOS MN said in a joint statement.
On Thursday night, protests over Floyd's killing spread across the country as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Ohio, New York, Colorado, and elsewhere. Police officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at crowds of demonstrators gathered in Denver and Columbus.
"I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they're tired of seeing black men die, constantly, over and over again," Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, said in an appearance on CNN Thursday night in response to the protests. "I don't want them to lash out like that, but I can't stop people right now because they have pain. They have the same pain that I feel."
Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Floyd's family, tweeted late Thursday that it is "outrageous" that "the four Minneapolis Police officers who murdered George Floyd are still walking around free tonight."
"Call DA Mike Freeman (612-348-5550) and demand prosecution," Crump wrote. "They need to be arrested and charged."