Protests have erupted across the country over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, that was graphically captured on cellphone video. The city has seen escalated demonstrations and unrest as protesters call for the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck and the three officers who were present during the incident to be prosecuted. Protests, some marred by violence, have also broken out elsewhere in the US.
But tweeting about an hour after midnight in Washington DC, Trump launched a Twitter attack on the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey. The president wrote: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
In a second tweet, he wrote “these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. … Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Twitter has since hidden the second tweet behind a warning that it violated “Twitter Rules about glorifying violence”, fanning the president’s anger toward the social media company.
Frey responded to the attack when a reporter read aloud Trump’s tweets directed at him and the protests. “Let me say this: weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else at a time of crisis,” Frey said.
The mayor shook his head when the reporter read that Trump called him a “very weak radical left mayor”.
“Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. This is a difficult time, yes, but you better be damn sure that we’re going to get through this.”
Late on Thursday night, the protests took a dramatic turn as a police precinct was set ablaze by demonstrators. Police officers working in the precinct fled the building after unconfirmed reports that gas lines had been cut and explosives were in the area. While no explosions went off in the night, the building continued to burn into the early hours of the morning.
At the press conference, Frey said it was his call to evacuate officers from the building. “The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life,” he said.
Frey also denounced the riots that were taking place in the context of the demonstrations. “What we have seen over the past several hours and past couple of nights is unacceptable. These are banks that people rely on to get cash, grocery stores that people rely on to get food. They are essential to our community.”
Earlier, Frey called on the district county attorney to arrest the officer who suffocated Floyd. “If most people, particularly people of color, had done what a police officer did late Monday, they’d already be behind bars,” he tweeted on Wednesday.