U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday evening threatened to deploy soldiers in cities rocked by violent protests over the death of a black American in police custody.
Speaking from the White House, Trump said he would call in the military if governors failed to take necessary action to defend the life and property of their residents.
The president stated that the country was witnessing “acts of domestic terror”, and not peaceful protests”.
Earlier in the day, he reportedly criticised the nation’s governors during a conference call where he described them as “weak” in the face of the growing racial unrest.
Local media reports quoted him as urging the governors to take decisive action against violent protesters.
“You have to dominate. 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”, he reportedly told the state chief executives during the virtual meeting.
At the White House address, Trump blamed extremist groups such as Antifa for the unrest.
He vowed to ensure lawbreakers were “arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law”.
“My first and highest duty as president is to defend our great country and the American people.
“I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation and that is what I will do.
“The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offence to humanity and a crime against God,” he said.
The protests started in the city of Minneapolis where 46-year-old George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck that he suffocated.
His death has been declared a homicide following an official post-mortem examination.
The protests have turned violent in several cities with Minneapolis, Washington DC and New York, declaring curfew on Monday night.
Trump said Floyd’s memory must not be “drowned out by an angry mob”, adding that Americans were rightly “sickened and revolted” by his brutal death.
“I am your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protests.
“But in recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others.
“A number of state and local governments have failed to take necessary action to safeguard their residents,” he added.