George Floyd protesters return to the streets as Trump decries ‘lowlifes’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Undeterred by curfews, protesters streamed back into the nation’s streets Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump pressed governors to put down the violence set off by George Floyd’s death and demanded that New York call up the National Guard to stop the “lowlifes and losers.”

As more demonstrations began taking shape around the country, and cities including Washington prepared for the possibility of more violence, the president amplified his hard-line calls of a day earlier, in which he threatened to send in the military to restore order if governors didn’t do it.

“NYC, CALL UP THE NATIONAL GUARD,” he tweeted. “The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!”

One day after a crackdown on peaceful protesters near the White House, thousands of demonstrators massed a block away from the presidential mansion, facing law enforcement personnel standing behind a black chain-link fence. The fence was put up overnight to block access to Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest Tuesday for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the protest lacked the tension of the previous nights’ demonstrations. The crowd Tuesday was peaceful, polite even. At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

On Monday, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to do a photo op at nearby St. John’s Church. On Tuesday, pastors at the church prayed with demonstrators and handed out water bottles.

Protests ranged across the U.S., including in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, St. Paul, Minnesota, Columbia, South Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, where more than 1,000 people gathered in the afternoon to decry the killings of black people.

“This has to change,” said 39-year-old Aisxia Batiste, an out-of-work massage therapist in Orlando. “Something has to give. We’re done. This is the beginning of the end of something. It has to be.”

In New York, midtown Manhattan was pocked with battered storefronts after Monday’s protests. Macy’s flagship store was among those hit when crowds of people smashed windows and looted stores as they swept through the area. A police sergeant was hospitalized after being hit by a car in the Bronx, where people walked Tuesday between ransacked buildings and a burned-out car on the Grand Concourse, a commercial thoroughfare.

Police made nearly 700 arrests and Mayor Bill de Blasio extended an 8 p.m. curfew all week.

“We’re going to have a tough few days,” he warned, but added: “We’re going to beat it back.” He pleaded with community leaders to step forward and “create peace.”

Thousands of protesters marched Tuesday night in a string of demonstrations across Manhattan and Brooklyn after merchants boarded up their businesses, fearing a repeat of the night before. Many people remained on the streets after the curfew hour. Police eventually ordered them to move along and began taking some into custody.

More than 20,000 National Guard members have been called up in 29 states to deal with the violence. New York is not among them, and de Blasio has said he does not want the Guard. On Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo called what happened in the city “a disgrace.”

“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany.

He said the mayor underestimated the problem, and the nation’s largest police force was not deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.

Tuesday marked the eighth straight night of the protests, which began in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, and quickly spread across the country.

The mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, said she wanted the world to know that her little girl lost a good father.

“I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took,” Roxie Washington said during a Minneapolis news conference with her young daughter at her side. “I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”

On Monday, scattered violence flared in multiple protests, including an officer who was shot and gravely wounded outside a Las Vegas hotel and casino, and four officers shot in St. Louis. They were expected to recover.

About a dozen other deaths have been reported around the country over the past week. And nearly 8,000 people nationwide have been arrested, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Some protesters framed the burgeoning movement as a necessity after a string of killings by police.

“It feels like it’s just been an endless cascade of hashtags of black people dying, and it feels like nothing’s really being done by our political leaders to actually enact real change,” said Christine Ohenzuwa, 19, who attended a peaceful protest at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul. “There’s always going to be a breaking point. I think right now, we’re seeing the breaking point around the country.”

“I live in this state. It’s really painful to see what’s going on, but it’s also really important to understand that it’s connected to a system of racial violence,” she said.

Meanwhile, governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats alike, rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, with some saying troops would be unnecessary and others questioning whether the government has such authority and warning that such a step would be dangerous.

“Denver is not Little Rock in 1957, and Donald Trump is not President Eisenhower. This is a time for healing, for bringing people together, and the best way to protect civil rights is to move away from escalating violence,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, both Democrats, said in a statement, referring to Eisenhower’s use of troops to enforce school desegregation in the South.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the president is not rushing to send in the military and that his goal was to pressure governors to deploy more National Guard members.

Such use of the military would mark a stunning federal intervention rarely seen in modern American history.

Amid the protests, nine states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries that moved Joe Biden closer to formally clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Voters waited in long lines hours after polls closed, brushing up against curfews in Washington and Philadelphia, two cities rocked by protests.

Also Tuesday, Minnesota opened an investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a pattern of discrimination against minorities. Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes.

Chauvin has been charged with murder. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine if the three other officers at the scene should be charged too. All four have been fired.

10:35 p.m. (ET)

Beloved former St. Louis police captain killed by looters

For 38 years, Dave Dorn worked to protect and serve the public as a police officer, rising to the rank of captain in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Dorn was shot and killed by a looter overnight while working as a security guard at Lee’s Pawn and Jewelry on Martin Luther King Drive, KTVI reports. He was 77.

“He was exercising his law enforcement training,” said St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden. “So, in his honor, we are wearing our mourning badge.”

After retiring from the St. Louis department in 2007, Dorn became the chief of police in Moline Acres.

No matter where Dave Dorn worked, people loved him. Retired St. Louis police Officer David Ellison said Dorn helped him out of poverty and into a life in law enforcement.

“Dave Dorn was a great man. He was fair; the sharpest, cleanest guy,” Ellison said. “He came out of the car; his presence was well-known and observed. He meant business when it was time for business.”

Chief Hayden said investigators have made no arrests and have not identified a suspect.

10:19 p.m. (ET)

New York City

9:56 p.m. (ET)

Thousands remain protesting in NYC streets, defying curfew

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd remained on New York City streets Tuesday in defiance of an 8 p.m. curfew put in place by officials struggling to stanch destruction seen on other nights and growing complaints that the nation’s biggest city was reeling out of control.

Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on a citywide curfew, moving it up from 11 p.m. the night before, but rejected urging from President Donald Trump and an offer from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring in the National Guard.

“Everyone, time to go home so we can keep people safe,” he said on WINS-AM radio shortly after the curfew took effect.

He was ignored by many around the city who continued marching throughout the city’s streets. In some areas, police let people continue on their way, while making arrests in others.

“I’m surprised,” said Risha Munoz, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where at points they were greeted with cheers and horns by onlookers in building windows. “I didn’t think they were gonna let us go on, but we just kept on moving and we’re not stopping.”

In some locations, officers started ordering people to move along, and began taking people into custody. Demonstrators who had been on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan were herded off, with parts of the roadway blocked off behind them.

“Something has to break, and it’s not going to be us,” said Evan Kutcher, one of hundreds of demonstrators who stood outside the Barclays Center chanting Floyd’s name Tuesday evening.

“We’re here because something needs to change. We hear Cuomo and de Blasio everyday saying what’s happening is unacceptable but with no actionable plan from them.”

The police department announced it would not allow vehicle traffic south of 96th Street in Manhattan after curfew, though residents, essential workers, buses and truck deliveries were exempt.

“We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said in announcing that the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would remain through Sunday.

Protests had resumed Tuesday during the day over the death of Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on Floyd’s neck even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

While de Blasio insisted the city would put a stop to the violence and vandalism that have marred largely peaceful mass demonstrations surrounding Floyd’s death, both the Republican president and the Democratic governor laid into the city’s handling of the mayhem thus far.

“The NYPD and the mayor did not do their job last night,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Albany. “Look at the videos. It was a disgrace.”

He said the mayor was underestimating the problem and the nation’s largest police force wasn’t deployed in sufficient numbers, though the city had said it doubled the usual police presence.

Cuomo’s remarks infuriated the New York Police Department’s highest-ranking uniformed member, Chief of Department Terence Monahan. Officers are “giving their blood to keep this city safe,” he told the New York Post, adding that he’d been hit by a bike and bloodied himself while arresting suspects Monday night. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi later said the governor “has respect and confidence in the NYPD” and felt the mayor should put more officers on the streets.

Unprompted, Cuomo brought up the possibility of using his power as governor to replace the mayor and deploy the National Guard over de Blasio’s objections, then immediately shot down the idea as legally impractical and unnecessary.

On Twitter, Trump urged a 7 p.m. curfew and National Guard deployment in his native city.

“The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act fast!” he wrote.

But de Blasio said the NYPD was “best equipped” to handle the lawbreaking, arguing that bringing in the National Guard risked fueling worse conflict in a city on edge.

“We will regret it if we bring outside armed forces,” he said. “When you bring in people not trained for the circumstance but still with loaded weapons and put under horrible stress, really bad things happen.”

The mayhem over the last four nights has clearly challenged the 36,000-officer police force, which has a reputation as a muscular, well-resourced agency that has driven down crime and faced down terror threats in the nation’s biggest city.

On Monday night and early Tuesday, police again struggled to keep up with, let alone get ahead of, roving groups of people bashing their way into shops, including Macy’s flagship Manhattan store.

De Blasio said officials expected problems farther downtown, as had happened the night before, and “adjustments were made” once officials realized that the hot spots had shifted.

Nearly 700 people were arrested overnight, and several officers were injured. A sergeant was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx and was hospitalized in serious but stable condition, police said. Video also showed a group of people hitting a police officer with pieces of wreckage until he pulled his gun and they ran.

7:06 p.m. (ET)

Officers taking a knee with protesters in Los Angeles

Sarasota, Fla.

6:38 p.m. (ET)

6:30 p.m. (ET)

Los Angeles

6:28 p.m. (ET)

Minneapolis police face civil rights probe over Floyd death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The state of Minnesota on Tuesday launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department in hopes of forcing widespread changes following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes, even after he stopped moving.

FILE – This undated file photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd. Floyd died May 25, after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. (Christopher Harris via AP, File)

Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced the filing of the formal complaint at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. The governor and Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said they hope to reach agreement with the city to identify short-term ways to address the police department’s history of racial discrimination, and use the investigation to find long-term solutions for systemic change.

Lucero said their goal is to negotiate a consent decree with the city that courts could enforce with injunctions and financial penalties. There are precedents, she said, including a consent decree approved in Chicago last year after the U.S. Justice Department found a long history of racial bias and excessive use of force by police.

Widely seen bystander video showing Floyd’s death has sparked sometimes violent protests around the world. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers involved were fired but have not been charged.

“We know that deeply seated issues exist,” the governor said. “And the reason I know it is we saw the casual nature of the erasing of George Floyd’s life and humanity. We also know by the reaction of the community. They expected nothing to happen, and the reason is because nothing did happen for so many times.”

Walz said the investigation into the police department’s policies, procedures and practices over the past 10 years will determine if the force has engaged in systemic discrimination toward people of color, and root it out. Lucero will lead the investigation.

All 12 members of the Minneapolis City Council endorsed a statement read by Council President Lisa Bender at a news conference later Tuesday in support of the investigation.

“We urge the state to use its full weight to hold the Minneapolis Police Department accountable for any and all abuses of power and harms to our community and stand ready to aid in this process as full partners,” the council said.

Mayor Jacob Frey said the state’s intervention will help break what he called a stalemate on reform.

“For years in Minneapolis, police chiefs and elected officials committed to change have been thwarted by police union protections and laws that severely limit accountability among police departments,” Frey said in a statement. “I welcome today’s announcement because breaking through those persistent barriers, shifting the culture of policing, and addressing systemic racism will require all of us working hand in hand.”

A police department spokesman and the president of the officers’ union didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The FBI is also investigating whether police willfully deprived Floyd of his civil rights.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights enforces the state’s human rights act, particularly as it applies to discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and public services. Mediation is one of its first-choice tools, but the cases it files can lead to fuller investigations and sometimes end up in litigation.

The Minneapolis Police Department has faced decades of allegations of brutality and other discrimination against African Americans and other minorities, even within the department itself. Critics say its culture resists change, despite the elevation of Medaria Arradondo as its first black police chief in 2017.

Arradondo himself was among five black officers who sued the police department in 2007 over alleged discrimination in promotions, pay, and discipline. They said in their lawsuit that the department had a history of tolerating racism and discrimination. The city settled the lawsuit for $740,000.

State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, who was neighboring St. Paul’s second black police chief, said good officers should welcome the investigation. He co-chaired a working group with Attorney General Keith Ellison that reported back in February on ways to reduce police-involved deadly force encounters.

“I’ve been a cop for 40 years. I have lived in this system that they’re talking about reforming. … The cops I talk to, the cops I’ve worked with since 1977 to date will tell you, they want change,” Harrington said. “They don’t want to work in a flawed system. They don’t want to have to be wearing gas masks. They don’t want to have to be on riot control duty.”

Earlier Tuesday, an attorney for Floyd’s family again decried the official autopsy that found his death was caused by cardiac arrest as police restrained him and compressed his neck. The medical examiner also listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use, but not as the cause of death.

A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded that that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.

“The cause of death was that he was starving for air. It was lack of oxygen. And so everything else is a red herring to try to throw us off,” family attorney Ben Crump said. He said the Hennepin County medical examiner went to great lengths to try to convince the public that what was shown on bystander video didn’t cause Floyd to die.

Ellison told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that prosecutors are working as fast as they can to determine whether more charges will be filed.

5:28 p.m. (ET)

14th St. in Washington, D.C.

5:13 p.m. (ET)

Curfews give sweeping powers to cops, but are often flouted

Hundreds of cities have imposed curfews to keep the peace during a week of violent unrest across the U.S., employing a tactic that gives law enforcement sweeping arrest powers but is frequently flouted and criticized as being unconstitutional.

From New York City to Fargo, North Dakota, cities large and small have put curfews in place — in some cases for the first time in decades — sending out emergency notices on phones and highway signs urging people to stay off the streets.

But the deadlines aren’t hard and fast — many of them have exceptions for people heading to and from work, reporters, public transportation and even people buying groceries. Many protesters and citizens have routinely disregarded the restrictions, and police have allowed peaceful demonstrations to continue after curfew while focusing their attention on violent unrest.

A curfew allows police the ability without any other reason to threaten to arrest or detain crowds of protesters that linger or groups that appear to be a danger to order. And curfews can be a deterrent to get law-abiding citizens off the street and allow police to focus their efforts on the unrest and not get bogged down in run-of-the-mill violations.

New York City put in place a large-scale curfew for what appeared to be the first time in nearly 80 years this week as groups vandalized buildings and stole from stores. The curfew was originally 11 p.m., but Mayor Bill de Blasio rolled it back to 8 p.m., before the sun goes down.

“If you choose to protest today, do it in the daytime hours and then please go home because we have work to do to keep a peaceful city,” de Blasio said.

Curfews have been installed in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit, Denver. Philadelphia and hundreds of other cities and communities across the country.

Curfews aren’t unusual in the United States but are typically used in natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes to allow law enforcement to stop anyone on the streets and prevent stealing when many homes and empty or damaged. New York City has used curfews in specific locations like parks — sometimes with controversial results.

The 1988 Tompkins Square Park riot in Manhattan had to do in part with a then-newly imposed 1 a.m. parks department curfew in a bid to rid the park of drugs and crime. In enforcing the curfew, police flooded the park with officers and were accused of rampant abuses.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani ramped up enforcement of Central Park’s nightly closure after a string of robberies in the late 1990s. Giuliani was so strict about the curfew, he wouldn’t grant an exception for a late-night vigil to John Lennon, despite intercession from the lord mayor of Liverpool on behalf of aggrieved Beatles fans.

During the unrest of the past week, police also want bystanders off the street during unrest — and the curfew solves that.

“The curfew really is to keep people from coming sort of to gawk at what’s going on and keep the looky-loos away,” said Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen, whose city’s 8 p.m. Monday curfew appeared to help prevent the destructive demonstrations from the night before.

The curfews also come on the heels of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, making for an unprecedented stretch in cities like New York.

In Columbia, South Carolina, officials lifted a weekend curfew and the mayor joined an afternoon protest at the state capitol calling for police reform. But several dozen people stayed for hours after the protest ended as tensions with police grew as shadows got longer.

Just before 7:30 p.m. Monday, Columbia, South Carolina , Mayor Steve Benjamin set a curfew for 7:45 p.m. for a small area of downtown and an areas of restaurants and shops. The city sent an emergency notice and protesters looked at their screens as their phones started to buzz and the curfew set in. The protesters immediately started to walk away.

But some civil rights organizations think hastily issued curfews are unfair and against the First Amendment of the Constitution.

“By making presence on public streets anywhere in these cities unlawful, these measures give police too much discretion over whom to arrest,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California after a number of cities issued curfews.

New York City on Monday found out an unintended consequence of a curfew is keeping away law-abiding protesters. The night before, they banded together to stop vandalism and help police find lawbreakers.

It also sends a subtle message, said New York City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez.

“Implementing a curfew and increasing the number of police officers patrolling the streets is a tactic to effectively silence the voices raised in protest against the abuse of power and looting of black and colored bodies by members of the police,” Rodriguez said.

Curfews can cause other problems too. Charleston, South Carolina, had a curfew for three days after late night Saturday protests led to shattered windows for restaurants and businesses and stolen merchandise downtown.

Monday night was quiet. And Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said he immediately heard from a certain group of people.

“We want to give our businesses a chance to get back into business,” Tecklenburg told his City Council at a Tuesday meeting lifting the curfew.

A curfew also allows police to separate people who want to protest while following the law from people who want to cause harm, said Tamara Herold, an assistant professor in the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. That makes it easier for law enforcement to decide how to use force to break up unrest.

“One of the things police always want to avoid is using indiscriminate force against a large crowd,” Herold said.

5:04 p.m. (ET)

George W. Bush issues statement on ‘brutal suffocation’ of George Floyd: ‘It is time for us to listen’

Former President George W. Bush issued a statement Tuesday regarding the “brutal suffocation of George Floyd,” saying it is “time for us to listen” and that it is time for America to “examine our tragic failures.”

The full statement is below:

“Laura and I are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country. Yet we have resisted the urge to speak out, because this is not the time for us to lecture. It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures – and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.

It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country. It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society? The only way to see ourselves in a true light is 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.

America’s greatest challenge has long been to unite people of very different backgrounds into a single nation of justice and opportunity. The doctrine and habits of racial superiority, which once nearly split our country, still threaten our Union. The answers to American problems are found by living up to American ideals — to the fundamental truth that all human beings are created equal and endowed by God with certain rights. We have often underestimated how radical that quest really is, and how our cherished principles challenge systems of intended or assumed injustice. The heroes of America — from Frederick Douglass, to Harriet Tubman, to Abraham Lincoln, to Martin Luther King, Jr. — are heroes of unity. Their calling has never been for the fainthearted. They often revealed the nation’s disturbing bigotry and exploitation — stains on our character sometimes difficult for the American majority to examine. We can only see the reality of America’s need by seeing it through the eyes of the threatened, oppressed, and disenfranchised.

That is exactly where we now stand. Many doubt the justice of our country, and with good reason. Black people see the repeated violation of their rights without an urgent and adequate response from American institutions. We know that lasting justice will only come by peaceful means. Looting is not liberation, and destruction is not progress. But we also know that lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.

This will require a consistent, courageous, and creative effort. We serve our neighbors best when we try to understand their experience. We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, in both protection and compassion. There is a better way — the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice. I am confident that together, Americans will choose the better way.”

4:43 p.m. (ET)

Barr vows ‘even greater’ law enforcement resources in unrest

U.S. law enforcement officials vowed “even greater law enforcement resources and support” in the nation’s capital Tuesday night to respond to protests, as one local county pulled its officers out, saying they were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said she never requested help from neighboring jurisdictions to quell demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. She said D.C. officials flatly rejected a proposal floated by the Trump administration to take over the local police department and threatened legal action if they did.

The federal government has deployed law enforcement officials from numerous agencies and National Guard troops from a number of states have been sent to the District of Columbia. Attorney General William Barr is directing the federal law enforcement response in the city.

“There will be even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region tonight,” Barr said in a statement. “The most basic function of government is to provide security for people to live their lives and exercise their rights, and we will meet that responsibility here in the nation’s capital.”

Law enforcement officers, using flash bangs and tear gas, took aggressive action Monday night to clear protesters away from Lafayette Park near the White House in advance of President Donald Trump’s walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.

After participating in the show of force, which included officers on foot and horseback, Arlington County in Virginia pulled its officers out of the District of Columbia. The County Board issued a statement Monday night saying its officers were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said on Twitter she’s “appalled” that the mutual aid agreement was abused “for a photo op.”

In a phone interview, Garvey said the aid request came from U.S. Park Police, and that the agencies have provided aid to each other routinely over the years. She said Arlington Police had helped in the District on Saturday and Sunday without incident.

In a call with governors Monday, Trump and Barr also encouraged more aggressive action against those who cause violence during protests across the country following the killing of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air. The demonstrations have turned violent in several cities, with fires ignited in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

The call raised questions about whether using more aggressive law enforcement measures against demonstrators protesting police brutality would only increase tensions.

Trump said he was “taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America.”

The president urged governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited with helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis, and demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced spasms of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

“Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” Trump said. “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.”

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment when asked whether Barr was involved in the decision to use tear gas on protesters outside the White House. A U.S. Park Police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Law enforcement officials had made a decision earlier Monday that they needed to extend the security perimeter around the White House after multiple fires broke out in Lafayette Park the night before, according to a law enforcement official who would not publicly discuss the security protocols and spoke on condition of anonymity.

After speaking in the Rose Garden, Trump then walked slowly out of the White House gates, senior aides and security with him, across the park to the landmark St. John’s Church, where every president, including Trump, has prayed. It had been damaged Sunday night in a protest fire.

Trump then stood alone in front of cameras and raised a Bible — and declared, “We have a great country,” he said. “Greatest country in the world.”

Between the protests and the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Guard has been deployed at its highest level in recent history, surpassing the number of troops sent to the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 66,700 soldiers and airman have been activated — 45,000 to assist with the pandemic and more than 17,000 to help with the protests.

Other law enforcement resources are also being mobilized.

The Justice Department deployed the U.S. Marshals Service and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration to supplement National Guard troops in Washington on Sunday. By midnight, Barr had ordered the FBI to deploy its Hostage Rescue Team, an elite tactical unit, to the streets of the nation’s capital, a senior Justice Department official said.

The U.S. Park Police and Secret Service have had dozens of officers out in riot gear in Washington for the last few nights, in addition to the Metropolitan Police Department. U.S. Customs and Border Protection was also sending officers, agents and aircraft around the country to assist other law enforcement agencies “confronting the lawless actions of rioters,” the agency said. The officers were being deployed in several states, though the official declined to provide specific details, citing security concerns.

Several major cities have enacted curfews, and in D.C. , Bowser set a 7 p.m. curfew for Monday and Tuesday. Violent demonstrators ignored the 11 p.m. curfew the night before as they set buildings and trash cans on fire and broke into stores to steal items from the shelves.

Most of the protesters have been peaceful and tried to discourage violence. Trump, Barr and others have tried to blame some of the civil unrest on left-wing extremist groups, including antifa, and other “anarchists.” Short for anti-fascists, antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.

The Justice Department has vowed to treat the “violence instigated and carried out by antifa & other similar groups” as domestic terrorism. Although there isn’t a specific federal domestic terrorism statute, prosecutors could charge other offenses and seek enhanced sentencing.

In addition to the National Guard, officials said that soldiers from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Fort Drum, New York, were heading to D.C. and would be based outside the city in case they are needed. They would be prepared to respond, but the officials said they are hopeful those troops will not be needed. If they are sent in, they are not expected to be conducting any law enforcement. The officials declined to say how many active-duty troops were en route.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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