President Donald Trump threatened to send American soldiers on to the streets to quell the worst unrest since the 1960s unless cities and states take stronger action against protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Calling himself the “law and order” president, Trump spoke on Monday night as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who were demonstrating peacefully in Lafayette Square, a park in front of the White House.
Trump then strode across the cleared area to St John’s Episcopal Church, where he posed for pictures holding a Bible, which he did not open. The move was panned by critics of the president as a publicity stunt. Reverend Mariann Budde, the bishop who oversees the church, told the Washington Post that she was ‘outraged’ police had used tear gas to clear the path to allow Trump to use the historic building ‘as a prop’.
Kamala Harris, the California senator and possible running mate for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, posted on Twitter that Trump had “tear-gassed peaceful protesters for a photo op”.
Muriel Bowser, Washington’s mayor, slammed the federal police for targeting peaceful protesters ahead of the 7pm curfew she had set. She said on Twitter: “A full 25 minutes before the curfew & w/o provocation, federal police used munitions on peaceful protestors in front of the White House, an act that will make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult. Shameful!”