Trump, citing Dallas, threatens to deploy troops in response to protests (Video)

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PATRICK SEMANSKY/Associated Press

President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from the White House on June 1 in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night.

Associated Press

This story was updated at 10:15 p.m. to include information about protests in Texas and President Trump’s reaction to the state’s protest response.

WASHINGTON — Amid racial unrest across the nation, President Donald Trump on Monday declared himself “the president of law and order” and threatened to deploy the U.S. military to American cities to quell a rise of violent protests.

As Trump spoke, an incredible TV split screen developed around the White House. While he addressed the nation in the White House’s idyllic Rose Garden, a series of military vehicles rolled out front on Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters at Lafayette Park.

Those peaceful demonstrators were cleared so Trump could walk across the park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as “The Church of the Presidents,” which suffered fire damage in a protest this week. Holding a Bible, he then stood with several of his Cabinet members as the cameras clicked.

“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump declared. “We’re going to keep it safe.”

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington criticized Trump’s use of the church, saying she was outraged.

Trump said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands” of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests. Loud tear gas explosions could be heard as authorities moved what appeared to be peaceful protests in the park. The escalation came just after Attorney General William Barr came to the park to survey the demonstrators.

According to senior defense officials, between 600 and 800 National Guard members from five states were being sent to Washington to provide assistance. Those troops were either already on the ground or expected to arrive by midnight.

Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from the Civil War, which allows the use of active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.

The officials said that some of the National Guard in D.C. will be armed and others will not. They said the D.C. guard members do not have nonlethal weapons. The military police that are visible in the city are members of the Guard.

Earlier in the day, Trump brought the national crisis home to Texas — specifically Dallas — in a video teleconference with the nation’s governors, law enforcement officers and national security officials.

Trump told the governors they need to “dominate” or else wind up looking like “jerks.”

Dallas police had been dealing with continued violent protests over the weekend after the city announced a curfew.

As Trump was making demands Monday that governors get tougher in cracking down on violence among some demonstrations, he cited Dallas protesters who badly beat a man this weekend.

Protester holding a sign that reads "I can't breathe."
Protesters demonstrate in front of Dallas City Hall in downtown Dallas May 30. Protests across the country have escalated over the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (LM OTERO/Associated Press)

But Dallas police said the president’s comments left out what police suggest sparked the incident to which he seemed to be referring — the man swinging a machete at protesters. And the man was last reported to be in stable condition, contrary to Trump’s suggesting he may have died.

“I saw what happened in Dallas, where they kicked a guy to death. I don’t know if he died or not, but if he didn’t it’s a miracle. What they did to him, they were kicking him like I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” Trump said. “People don’t talk about that. They don’t talk about that. They’re talking about a lot of other things, but they don’t talk about that. But I saw what happened in Dallas. Those kids, they’re all on camera. They’re wise guys. It’s coming from the radical left. You know it. Everybody knows it.”

The comments appear to refer to graphic videos of a man being beaten in Dallas on Saturday. The video circulated widely on social media. One video posted to Twitter by a reporter for Blaze TV was viewed more than 33 million times.

Dallas police said the man was alive Sunday and in stable condition at a hospital. They said they don’t provide updates on victims unless they die.

Witnesses told investigators the attack began when the man “came to the protest wielding a large knife/machete at several protesters,” according to police Sgt. Warren Mitchell. He had the machete to “allegedly protect his neighborhood from protesters,” Mitchell said.

The video starts with protesters throwing things at a man carrying a long object. He then raises it, runs at a protester carrying a skateboard and someone is heard screaming.

No one has been charged in the incident. Neither the man who was carrying the machete nor the protester who was cut on the hand has filed a complaint, Mitchell said Monday.

Squad cars and police on foot quickly moved in to pick up anyone still on the downtown streets once the curfew started Sunday. Dallas police tweeted photos while making at least 70 arrests and noted “there is very little activity occurring in the downtown Dallas area.”

Police Chief U. Renee Hall said the curfew could be in effect “for the next several days” and that several suburban police departments had volunteered officers to help.

Several Texas cities braced for the possibility of unrest and established curfews to prevent a repeat of the violence over the death of George Floyd and police’s treatment of black people.

Violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive.”

— Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Austin had no curfew, but the state Capitol grounds were closed Sunday after the grounds were vandalized Saturday. One group canceled a rally because it felt it couldn’t ensure the safety of African American protesters. But other protesters still gathered outside the Capitol and marched on City Hall and police headquarters. Some protesters also walked onto Interstate 35 and blocked traffic Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of demonstrators stayed on the streets between the Capitol building and police department after dark. Smoke billowed over the roadway as police cleared out the protesters and then formed a line to stop them from re-entering.

Austin Police Chief Brian Manley in a Monday press conference acknowledged that two people had been injured when hit by beanbag rounds fired by police.

One was a 16-year-old boy seriously injured when a beanbag round fired by police struck him. Brad Ayala had finished his shift at an Austin sandwich shop when he decided to join the protesters along I-35.

An unidentified 20-year-old man was hospitalized with serious injuries Saturday after a beanbag round struck him in the head.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a statewide disaster on Sunday, allowing him to designate federal agents to do the work of local police. These moves come as some Texas organizers are calling off demonstrations and others said they planned to proceed.

“Every Texan and every American has the right to protest, and I encourage all Texans to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement. “However, violence against others and the destruction of property is unacceptable and counterproductive. As protests have turned violent in various areas across the state, it is crucial that we maintain order, uphold public safety, and protect against property damage or loss.”

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