WASHINGTON — As sirens wailed and flash-bang grenades popped across the street, President Donald Trump announced from the Rose Garden that he would use the U.S. military to stop the riots across the country that have been sparked by the death of George Floyd.
“I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights,” Trump said in the extraordinary address, which was delivered as police fired smoke devices outside to push protesters back from the White House.
“We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now,” Trump said.
Trump said that governors should deploy the National Guard in great numbers so that they “dominate the streets.”
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions 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,” Trump said, referring to himself as “your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
He said he was already dispatching “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to Washington to stop the violence that has been a feature of the protests here.
Shortly before he started to speak — about 20 minutes before Washington’s 7 p.m. ET curfew — U.S. Park Police and the National Guard had started using smoke and flash-bangs to push away the large crowd of peaceful protesters outside. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser complained on Twitter that the move would “make the job of @DCPoliceDept officers more difficult.”
It soon became clear why the authorities had forcibly cleared Lafayette Square and its surrounding streets of peaceful protesters. Concluding his remarks, Trump said he was going to “pay my respects to a very, very special place.” Then, surrounded by many of his West Wing aides, he walked across the street that had been cleared in order to stand outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, which suffered fire damage in protests Sunday night.
Trump held up a Bible outside the church, posed for pictures and then returned to the White House. He did not go in the church or express any religious sentiments there.
The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who oversees the church, told The Washington Post that she found out about the visit when it was shown on television and that she was “outraged” by what she saw.
She said she “was not given even a courtesy call that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop, holding a Bible, one that declares that God is love, and when everything he has said and done…