President Trump told governors Monday that they must “dominate” rioters in their states or “you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”
“You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Mr. Trump told the governors in a conference call, a recording of which was obtained by CBS News. “They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”
The president said such street violence has happened before in the U.S., “and the only time it’s successful is when you’re weak.”
“And most of you are weak,” Mr. Trump told the governors. “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.”
Cities from New York to Los Angeles have been engulfed in street protests against police brutality in the past week after the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, during a confrontation with white police officers. One of them knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded for his life.
The demonstrations have led to arson, looting, vandalism and several shooting deaths.
Dozens of law enforcement officers have been injured, one federal security officer has been killed in Oakland, California, and more than 60 Secret Service officers were injured in clashes near the White House.
Mr. Trump again blamed the violence on “the radical left,” but he also urged governors to deal sternly with looters who are simply taking advantage of the chaos in the streets.
“It’s people that figure they can get free stuff by running into stores and running out with television sets,” the president said. “I saw it — a kid has a lot of stuff, he puts it in the back of a brand-new car and drives off. You have every one of these guys on tape. Why aren’t you prosecuting them? Now, the harder you are, the tougher you are, the less likely you’re going to be hit.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, was one of the few governors to push back against the president on the call.
“I’ve been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that’s been used by you,” Mr. Pritzker told the president. “It’s been inflammatory and it’s not okay for that officer to choke George Floyd to death, but we have to call for calm. We have to have police reform called for.”
Mr. Pritzker said “the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House is making it worse. People are feeling real pain out there. And we’ve got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we’re addressing the concerns of the legitimate peaceful protesters. That will help us to bring order.”
Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t like your rhetoric much, either, because I watched it with respect to the coronavirus and I don’t like your rhetoric much, either. I think you could have done a much better job, frankly, but that’s OK, we know we don’t agree with each other.”
Maine Gov. Janet Mills told the president she was “very concerned” about reports he will visit the state this week, saying it “may cause security problems for our state.”
The president said he plans to “pull in thousands of people [forces]” to quell demonstrations in the nation’s capital.
“Washington was under very good control, but we’re going to have it under much more control,” Mr. Trump said.
Demonstrators lit fires to a church and office buildings near the White House Sunday night in clashes with police and Secret Service.
The president also referred on the call to Attorney General William P. Barr and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We will activate Bill Barr and activate him very strongly,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Barr reportedly has ordered special operations riot teams from the federal Bureau of Prisons to help quell the street unrest in Washington and Miami.
The president cited Los Angeles and Philadelphia as examples of cities failing to control rioters.
“Philadelphia’s a mess. What happened there is horrible,” he said.
The rioting began in Minneapolis, where a black man, George Floyd, died last week after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on the street.
The rioting began in Minneapolis. The president said Minnesota authorities failed until Sunday night to control the civil unrest.
“What happened in the state of Minnesota. … They were a laughingstock all over the world,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and the whole world was laughing.”
He said of the state’s efforts, “Minnesota was an experiment. First part was weak and pathetic. Second part was domination.”
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