United States President Donald Trump on Monday vowed to deploy "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers" to stop the unrest in the capital and other cities if local administrations refuse to take the action against demonstrators.
Trump said he was “taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America” because the country needed “cooperation not contempt, security not anarchy, healing not hatred, justice not chaos.”
“I am mobilizing all available, federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans,” he said in the White House Rose Garden.
Trump spoke as protesters marched in the capital where riot police carrying shields pushed them back with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The rioting in the US stems from protests over the death late last month in police custody of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who had been detained in the midwestern city of Minneapolis for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a supermarket.
In videos recorded by passers-by, a white police officer who participated in the arrest - and is now facing third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges - is seen kneeling on the back of Floyd's neck and ignoring the handcuffed man's pleas for mercy.
Trump said he had “strongly recommended” to every governor to deploy the national guard in sufficient numbers to dominate the streets until the violence has been quelled.
“If a city or 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,” he said.
The head of the National Guard Office, General Joseph Lengyel, indicated on his Twitter account that as on Monday, “17,015 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are assisting local and state civilian agencies responding to civil unrest”.
Calling the violence in Washington DC last night “a total disgrace”, Trump said he was “dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement offices to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”
He said the government was putting everybody on warning that seven o'clock curfew will be strictly enforced.
He vowed to arrest and prosecute those “who threatened innocent life and property”.
“I want the organizers of this terror to be on notice that you will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail.”
At the end of his speech, Trump said he would go to “pay my respects to a very, very special place”.
Surrounded by dozens of security personnel, he then walked out of the White House across Lafayette Square to St. John’s Episcopal Church that was damaged in fire amid protests on Sunday.
Trump posed for the cameras with a Bible in his hand in front of the windows of the church, whose basement caught fire, although no major damage was done. EFE-EPA