President Donald Trump urged states to crack down on nationwide protests in the aftermath of the death of a black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“You have to dominate,” Trump said Monday in a video conference with governors and law enforcement.
“If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate and you have to arrest people and you have to try people,” Trump said.
Trump added: “We’re strongly looking for arrests, we do have to get much tougher, you’re going to get overridden.” At another point, the president said: “Most of you are weak.”
Bloomberg News obtained an audio recording of Trump’s comments, which were reported earlier by CBS News.
Trump has seized on the nationwide protests against police brutality to portray himself as an icon of law and order. His message to states underscored that approach.
The president on Sunday blamed the protests on Antifa, a loosely organized leftist movement that is a frequent target of conservative critics, and said he would declare the group to be terrorists.
The protests and looting followed the death of George Floyd last week. Police in Minneapolis on Friday arrested Derek Chauvin, the officer who was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck during an arrest.
Floyd, who was on the ground and handcuffed at the time, died after saying he couldn’t breathe. The episode prompted a nationwide outcry and set off protests around the country. In Minneapolis, some of those protests turned violent, and on Thursday the police station where Chauvin worked was burned.
Trump compared the protests to the Occupy Wall Street movement that followed the last financial crisis.
“It’s a movement that if you don’t put it down, it’ll get worse and worse,” Trump said.
Trump praised the U.S. Secret Service’s protection of the White House amid protests.
“We’re going to clamp down very very strong,” Trump said. “You’ve got to arrest people, you have to try people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again, and you have to let them know that.”
Trump criticized the police response to protests in Minnesota. He called the state a “laughing stock” that allowed protesters to take over.
He also criticized the response in several other cities.
“New York is going to have to toughen up and we’ll send you National Guard if you want,” Trump said.
“Philadelphia better toughen up,” he said.
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