Police fire tear gas outside White House as Trump ponders next move
Washington: As tear gas and fires eased and Washington went to sleep, a debate was rising within Donald Trump’s inner circle about whether the US President should do an Oval Office address to the nation.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across America for a sixth night, calling for justice in response to the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other black Americans who have died in police custody or who have been killed in racist attacks.
The mainly peaceful demonstrations during the day were overshadowed by unrest at night that quickly ravaged parts of cities from Pennsylvania on the East Coast to California on the West Coast, with unconfirmed reports of an LA Police officer being shot. In Minnesota a fuel tanker drove into a crowd, sending protesters scattering. No-one was injured.
The White House was put in lockdown again during the protests. After being briefly moved to an underground bunker during Friday night’s protests outside the White House, Trump spent the night again sheltered as violence raged nearby.
The fast-moving events leave his presidency – and his bid for a second term in November – consumed by a backdrop of smoldering cities; 104,000 dead from COVID-19 and counting in a public health disaster he failed to take seriously until it was too late; and unemployment approaching Great Depression-levels.
The divided nation ended up across the street from the White House, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1000 chanting protesters.
They scattered, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a street. Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added tree branches. A cinder block building housing bathrooms and a maintenance officer in the park was engulfed in flames.
The entire Washington National Guard – about 1700 soldiers – was being called in to help control the protests, according to two Defence Department officials.
Advisers both inside and outside the White House on Sunday, US time, were urging the President to tone down his violent rhetoric, which many worries are escalating racial tensions and hurting him politically, and weighing up the value of an address to the nation from the Oval Office.
Jonathan Swan, from the US news website Axios, reported that the biggest source of internal concern was Trump’s Friday tweet, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”.
But others believe the “law and order, tough guy rhetoric” works well with his supporters as long as it’s laced with sympathy for “legitimate protesters and for those actually mourning Floyd’s death”.
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