President Donald Trump spoke briefly in the Rose Garden this evening, promising to use military and national guard troops to restore order. At the same time, just yards away, federal law enforcement in riot gear used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse what had been up until then a peaceful protest.
"All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the killing of George Floyd," Trump said early in his speech. But he said that due to "domestic terrorists" infiltrating protests (he called out antifa by name), he would be taking actions to bring about the "ending [of] the riots and lawlessness that are spreading around the country."
At the time Trump was preparing to come out to speak in the Rose Garden, protesters had gathered peacefully just north of the White House in Lafayette Square. Moments before he came out to speak, law enforcement advanced quickly on the crowd and began firing tear gas, scattering them. Trump took credit for this response, stating that he was sending "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers" to keep the peace in Washington, D.C., and enforce a 7 p.m. curfew.
"I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters," Trump said as federal forces advanced on those peaceful protesters. After the speech was over, it became clear that police cleared protesters so that Trump could visit St. John's Episcopal Church across the street for a photo opp:
great photo op. nailed it pic.twitter.com/X7uedAcxHb
— Brendan Karet ???? (@bad_takes) June 1, 2020
Trump detailed several outrageous incidences of violent attacks by looters and others he referred to as "domestic terrorists." He left out any reference to the many cases where cops and members of the National Guard aggressively assaulted citizens protesting peacefully and used force against the journalists covering them.
He called for governors to use the National Guard to bring out enough troops to "dominate the streets" and called for mayors and governors to establish an "overwhelming presence" on the streets to counteract rioting and looting.
He said that if mayors and governors did not do so, he would deploy military troops to do so. Media outlets reported today that Trump is considering invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807, which would permit the president to send military troops to respond to protests in American cities. It was last invoked in 1992 in Los Angeles in response to the Rodney King riots.