As the civil unrest over the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day by a Minneapolis police officer escalates from coast to coast, Donald Trump stepped into the Rose Garden last evening and put his foot down. It was another surreal moment in American history as explosions coming from the rioters on the other side of the White House could be heard going off while the president was making his remarks to a nationwide live television audience.
The executive branch has a fair amount of latitude in times like this, and the president has never made any bones about self-identifying as a law-and-order president. But the Rose Garden speech was not a planned event and caught much of the media off guard. Just what has compelled Trump to make the sudden moves, and what does he have in his arsenal to quell the riots?
Defacing the Lincoln Memorial, setting fire to historic St. John’s Church, and spray painting the World War II Memorial in the District of Columbia are but a few of the actions that caught the president’s attention; along with the murder of a black Federal Protective Services officer in Oakland, CA.
As the president spoke, one was left wondering if Mr. Trump sounded a bit like a no-nonsense Dirty Harry ready to unload on the bad guys. “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are 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,” he declared.
Among the president’s plans to reduce the violence on the streets are:
- Mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting.
- Recommending that state governors deploy the National Guard “in sufficient numbers” so as to “dominate the streets.”
- Labeling Antifa as a domestic terrorist entity.
- Add special protection for the nation’s capital, including “dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement offices to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”
- “Arrest, detain and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law” those committing acts of violence.
Do Ya Feel Lucky, Punk?
Number one on Trump’s agenda is to overwhelm the rioters by activating the National Guard in large quantities, so they flood the streets. Deploying the guard has been done by many of Mr. Trump’s predecessors; however, calling active duty military into the streets is a rather unusual step. Liberty Nation’s Legal Affairs Editor, Scott Cosenza, stated:
“Since Reconstruction, the Posse Comitatus Act has long served as a general prohibition against the use of the United States military to enforce domestic policies within our borders. There are, however, several exceptions to the law, and one of them is if the president were to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807. That law was used both in Florida 1989 to quell looting after Hurricane Hugo and the Rodney King riots in 1992, to allow military troops to operate on our streets. The president did not mention the Insurrection Act during his remarks on Monday evening, but there are multiple reports confirming he is considering using it. To do so, he would need a request from a governor, or he could act independently if he found it necessary.”
President Trump’s resolve to stop the lawlessness was clear; he also emphasized the need to protect the American public:
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation and that is exactly what I will do. All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain, but we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protestors to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their president, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany announced that the president would establish a central command center to gain the upper hand on the rioting and looting. Among those on this special task force will be the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Attorney General Bill Barr.
At this point, there are still gaping holes in the sad story of George Floyd that are being drowned out by the rampant violence in cities across America. Overly redacted police bodycam footage was released, showing almost nothing. And thus far, even an original copy of a police report regarding the Floyd crime scene is not available. But one thing appears certain: The president is in command and seems not to be even the slightest bit afraid of the rioters and their tactics. As such, he is presenting as a man with a plan.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.