Trump backs down on military use as protests support grows
A day after threatening states that he would dispatch the military to quell protests, President Donald Trump appeared to be privately backing off his threat to deploy troops.
White House officials said this week's response to demonstrations across the country had indicated that local governments should be able to restore order themselves.
This comes after a new poll found a majority of Americans sympathise with the protests.
The survey conducted on Monday and Tuesday found 64 per cent of American adults were "sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now", while 27 per cent said they were not and nine per cent were unsure.
More than 55 per cent of Americans said they disapproved of President Trump's handling of the protests, while just one-third approved.
The protests in Washington and other cities over police brutality against minorities proceeded today with relative calm, a striking contrast to the harsh crackdowns outside the White House yesterday.
Trump had used the aggressive action in the nation's capital to set an example for the rest of the country, a senior White House official said on Tuesday. The Defense Department has drafted contingency plans for how to deploy active-duty military if needed.
Pentagon documents reviewed by The Associated Press revealed plans for soldiers from an Army division to protect the White House and other federal buildings if security in the nation's capital was to be further compromised and the National Guard could not secure the facilities.
However, interest in enacting such extraordinary federal authority appeared to be waning in the White House.
Though the crackdown on the Washington demonstrations was praised by some Trump supporters on Tuesday, a handful of Republicans expressed concern that law enforcement officers risked violating protesters' First Amendment rights.
The Defence Secretary also distanced himself from Trump's decision to walk across Lafayette Park for a photo opportunity at a church after the demonstrators had been cleared.
Pentagon Chief Mark Esper, who walked with Trump to St. John's Church on Monday night insisted he was not privy to the president's plan.
I didn't know where I was going," Esper told NBC News.
He said he had expected they were going to view damage to a bathroom facility that had been vandalised in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, and to talk with National Guard troops positioned there.
Protests have sprung up across the country following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and pressed Floyd's neck with his knee.
Violent demonstrations have raged in scores of American cities, marking a level of unrest unseen for decades.
The chaos in Washington escalated Monday, becoming a potent symbol of Trump's policing tactics and a physical manifestation of the rhetorical culture war he has stoked since before he was elected.
Nearly 30 minutes before a 7pm curfew in Washington, U.S. Park Police repelled protesters with what they said were smoke canisters and pepper balls.
"D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination," Trump tweeted Tuesday, after a night in which heavily armed military forces and federal officers swarmed the city. "(thank you President Trump!)." Trump added to his tweet.
The clampdown on protesters followed a weekend of demonstrations outside the White House. Current and former campaign and administration officials have revealed Trump was furious about images juxtaposing fires set in the park outside the executive mansion with a darkened White House in the background.
He was also angry about the news coverage revealing he had been rushed to the White House bunker during Friday's protests.
His aggressive and controversial response came on Monday, at an evening address in the Rose Garden. He called on governors to ramp up the National Guard presence in their states to control the protests.
If they didn't abide by those orders, Trump said he would dispatch the military to their states - a step rarely taken in modern American history.
The White House official said the federal government had provided all affected states with a list of National Guard resources available to them. The official added that Trump's message to governors was that if they don't use all the tools in their arsenal, they shouldn't expect a sympathetic response to any request for federal dollars to help with clean-up and recovery.
On Monday, 715 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in the capital area in case the situation in Washington escalated. They are now stationed at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and Fort Belvoir in Virginia. Two more 82nd Airborne battalions, totalling 1300 soldiers, are on standby at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, according to the documents reviewed by the AP. The plan has been dubbed Operation Themis.
The soldiers on standby in the Washington area are armed and have riot gear and bayonets. After the AP first reported the issuing of bayonets on Tuesday, orders came down that the knifelike weapons that could be affixed to rifles would not be needed, according to two soldiers from the 82nd. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear they would be punished for commenting publicly.
The idea that bayonets could be used in confronting civilians provoked an outcry on social media and among some members of Congress.
Administration officials are already privately acknowledging that the Monday's events didn't serve the administration well. Even some Republican politicians, who are typically in lock-step with the president or at least refrain from publicly criticising him, said he had gone too far in appearing to use force to clear the way for his visit to the church.
POLICE PELTED WITH BOTTLES AS PROTESTERS DEFY CURFEWS
Protests against police brutality have swelled in major cities across the United States despite curfews, following a week of demonstrations over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
On 23rd street in New York, police moved in to disperse protesters after looting and bottles were thrown at their cars.
CNN showed footage of a woman on the ground. It's not clear if she was knocked down by a car or the crowd. She was later helped up.
The television crew could be heard telling police "we are with CNN, we are live" as they got caught up in the upheaval.
The latest incidents prompted US President Donald Trump to take a shot at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's handling of the situation.
“Chaos, lawlessness, and destruction take over New York.” @FoxNews When will Governor Cuomo call the Federal Government for help?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2020
Images show protesters making their way over Manhattan Bridge.
There are reports police hindered the protesters from entering Manhattan forcing them back to the Brooklyn end.
Earlier a local reporter posted a video of a vehicle emblazoned with the word "flammable" on its side, as a cavalry of National Guard military vehicles rolled into the streets of Washington DC.
"Seeing a major movement of military hardware and personnel on the streets of downtown DC today as #GeorgeFloyd protests continue," Tom Fitzgerald of Fox affiliate Fox5 reported via Twitter.
Former presidential candidate, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, joined protesters in DC.
Just before curfew took effect in Washington and New York, Mr Trump tweeted "Washington, D.C., was the safest place on earth last night!".
Meanwhile, regular days off have been cancelled for uniformed officers in the NYPD. That means 36,000 police officers are working seven days a week, 12-hour shifts, ABC7 NY reports.
In Minneapolis, Roxie Washington, mother of Floyd's six-year-old daughter Gianna, told a news conference that he was a good man.
"I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took from me…," she said, sobbing.
"Gianna does not have a father. He will never see her grow up, graduate."
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson joined her and revealed his close friend was in Minneapolis looking for work.
"That was the main reason for moving. When he called me, his whole reason coming was to get here, get away from Texas so he could provide for his family, be a better father. His whole reason being in Minnesota was to drive trucks. He was doing great here, turning a curve, and then this happened. So he was doing his part," he said.
Looting and race riots broke out again in cities across the US yesterday, even as Floyd's family pleaded for peace.
As two autopsies found father-of-two George Floyd's death under the knee of a white police officer was homicide, his family visited a memorial at the site of his death and deplored the violence of the past week.
"I understand y'all are upset. But I doubt y'all are half as upset as I am," said George Floyd's brother, Terrence Floyd.
"So if I'm not over here wilding out, if I'm not over here blowing up stuff, if I'm not over here messing with my community, then what are y'all doing? Y'all doing nothing, but that's not going to bring my brother back at all."
"I know he (Floyd) would not want y'all to be doing this".
A record 17,000 National Guard members deployed and 13 cities across six states declared states of emergency.
BUSH CALLS ON US TO EXAMINE 'TRAGIC FAILURES'
Former president George W. Bush called on the US to take a hard look at its "tragic failures," citing racial injustice in America in a statement addressing protests.
"It remains a shocking failure that many African-Americans, especially young African-American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country," Bush said in the statement expressing anguish over the death of Floyd.
"This tragedy - in a long series of similar tragedies - raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?" Bush, who was president from 2001-2009, wrote.
"It is time for America to examine our tragic failures," he stated.
Bush did not mention his fellow Republican by name in his statement. But he made a point of insisting on the need "to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving." "Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America - or how it becomes a better place," he said.
"The heroes of America - from Frederick Douglass to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King Jr. - are heroes of unity."
Many New Yorkers yesterday stayed out past the newly installed 11pm curfew, with a mainly peaceful march that included families and children through Brooklyn contrasting with the chaos in Manhattan.
Witnesses described organised bands of mainly young looters smashing through shops across downtown and midtown, including the Rockefeller Centre, with some acting as scouts on bikes or pulling up in cars and emptying goods from the Nike, Lego and Gamestop stores into bags and then moving on.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo turned on his fellow Democrat, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the NYPD in the wake of the destruction.
"The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night. I believe that," Mr Cuomo said. "The police in New York City were not effective in doing their job last night. Period.
"They have to do a better job."
Despite some 8000 cops mobilised and an 11pm curfew, open looting and vandalism exploded in Lower Manhattan, Midtown and The Bronx as Monday bled into Tuesday. The curfew has now been moved to 8pm.
Mr Cuomo said the Mayor "underestimates the scope of the problem," and should "use 38,000 [NYPD] cops" - the entirety of the department's force - to quell the unrest, calling the results to date "inexcusable."
IVANKA, JARED PLANNED TRUMP'S CONTROVERSIAL WALK
Democrats criticised President Donald Trump's televised walk outside the White House to visit a nearby church, where he held up a bible.
But police denied claims that peaceful protesters were pushed back to accommodate the walk, saying people were moved back for attacking police.
It comes amid a Washington Post report Attorney-General William Barr personally asked for the area around the White House to be cleared, resulting in authorities using force to disperse protesters.
And CNN reports Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and adviser Hope Hicks hatched the plan which has sparked outrage.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden said the President "has turned this country into a battlefield rived by old resentments and fresh fears".
"Is this who we want to be? Is this what we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? Fear, anger, finger pointing, rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness?
"Look, the presidency is a big job. Nobody will get everything right. And I won't either," Biden said, but promised, "I won't fan the flames of hate".
Mr Trump has threatened to deploy the US military unless they dispatch National Guard units to "dominate the streets" in reaction to the violence.
"I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property," Mr Trump said.
"If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them."
In St Louis, a 77-year-old retired police captain who served 38 years on the force was shot and killed by looters at a pawn shop early Tuesday local time, authorities said.
David Dorn was found dead on the sidewalk in front of the ransacked store. Police have not released details about what led to the shooting, and no one has been arrested.
Dorn was a friend of the pawn shop's owner and frequently checked on the business when alarms went off, wife Ann Marie Dorn told the St. Louis Post
The shooting apparently was streamed on Facebook Live but has been taken down.
Donald Trump tweeted about the death today.
Our highest respect to the family of David Dorn, a Great Police Captain from St. Louis, who was viciously shot and killed by despicable looters last night. We honor our police officers, perhaps more than ever before. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/0ouUpoJEQ4— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2020
In Louisville, police and the National Guard troops trying to clear a crowd on Monday heard gunshots and returned fire, killing David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue restaurant.
The mayor fired the police chief after finding out officers did not turn on their body-worn cameras. State police and the US attorney also are investigating.
McAtee was a 53-year-old African-American man known for offering free meals to officers who stopped by his restaurant.
"We lost a wonderful citizen," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.
"David was a friend to many, a well-known barbecue man."
Meanwhile, four police officers were wounded by gunfire.
Two police officers were seriously injured after a car drove at them as they stood in line on a street in Buffalo, in upstate New York. The attack was caught on a shocking video, and police said two other people were shot.
Dozens of people were arrested for defying curfew on Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood, and there were reports of looting nearby.
In a moving moment in Nashville, Tennessee, more than 60 National Guard troops put their shields down when a crowd of protesters asked them to let them sing outside the Capitol building.
And in the city where the problems started, an increased National Guard and strict curfew was working to calm the situation in Minneapolis.
On the seventh day of unrest, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said he planned to withdraw some of the 7000 National Guard troops the state had called in.
National Guard Major General Jon Jensen said the city was in "a much more stable position", after a day of mainly peaceful protests over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd.
A tally from the Associated Press found more than 5,600 arrests since protests broke out a week ago, 155 of them in Minneapolis, 800 in New York City and more than 900 in Los Angeles.
Originally published as Trump backs down on military use as protests grow in support