Trump threatens to unleash gunfire on Minnesota protesters

The president’s early morning post, which came at the beginning of the fourth day of raging protests in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, earned a warning label from Twitter for violating its policies on “glorifying violence.”

But the social media platform “determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” and allowed users to view Trump’s tweet if they chose. Twitter’s communications team also tweeted it had “placed a public interest notice” on the post in part due to the “risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

Protests have cropped up across the country since the arrest Monday and death hours later of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, in Minneapolis. A bystander’s video of his encounter with police, which sparked national outrage, showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he repeatedly pleads for air, eventually becomes motionless and is put onto a gurney by paramedics.

Dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities have boarded up their storefronts to prevent looting, while Minneapolis-based Target announced it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores and the city shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday.

By nightfall Thursday, protesters had set fire to the 3rd Precinct Minneapolis police station — which covers the portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested — forcing the department to abandon the building.

Frey, the Minneapolis mayor, announced Tuesday the firings of the four officers involved in Floyd’s arrest, and called Wednesday for criminal charges to be brought against Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck.

By Friday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that Chauvin had been arrested.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said earlier in the day he had “every expectation” charges would be filed by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and defended the caution with which he said prosecutors were approaching the case.

“They want to make sure they have a case that sticks, and unfortunately that is taking more time than anyone of us want,” he told CNN, adding: “We are pushing to get those charges filed as soon as we can.”

Walz, the Minnesota governor, activated the National Guard at Frey’s request Thursday, but no Guard members could be seen during protests in the Twin Cities.

It is unclear whether Trump knew of Walz’s decision to call in the Guard when he posted his tweet Friday morning, but the president nevertheless is empowered to bring the military reserve force under federal command at any time by formally placing its members on active duty.

During a news briefing Friday in St. Paul, Walz and Ellison emphasized the state had taken over the law enforcement response to the protests, and acknowledged the bitter relationship between black residents of the Twin Cities and the Minneapolis Police Department.

“I understand clearly there is no trust in many of our communities,” Walz said, appealing for assistance from the community “to get the streets to a place where we can restore the justice, so that those that are expressing rage and anger and demanding justice are heard.”

Ellison noted that members of the state’s National Guard were administering coronavirus tests to Minnesotans just last week, and told protesters they should not “react to them the way you might react to the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“It’s not the same group,” he said. “They have different leadership, different authority, and their job is to try to bring peace and calm back again. Please remember that this is not the group that you associate with unfair conduct.”

Pressed for reaction on Trump’s tweets Friday morning, Walz told reporters that the president’s message was “just not helpful” to the unfolding crisis.

“In the moment where we’re at, in a moment that is so volatile, anything we do to add fuel to that fire is really, really challenging,” he said.

Although Walz reported he spoke with Trump by phone Thursday evening and the president “pledged his support” to the state, “there is a way to do this without inflaming,” the governor said.

Frey, during his own news briefing Friday in Minneapolis, said Trump “knows nothing about the strength” of the city, and rejected the president’s accusation that he was a “very weak” mayor.

“Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions. Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis,” he said, adding: “We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we’re going to get through this.”

The president’s latest tweets regarding the events in Minneapolis represent a stark reversal from his previous tone on the matter.

On Wednesday, Trump lamented the “very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd,” tweeting that he had requested an FBI and Justice Department investigation “to be expedited” and vowing: “Justice will be served!”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Thursday that the president was being briefed on the situation by Attorney General William Barr and the deputy director of the FBI, and went on to characterize Trump’s reaction to the viral video of Floyd’s arrest.

“He was very upset by it. It was egregious, appalling, tragic,” she said.

Floyd’s death came just weeks after a video of the fatal February shooting of a black man in Georgia, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, began circulating widely on social media.

That footage provoked a similar uproar among Americans, and the president described it earlier this month as “very, very disturbing” to watch. He also said that “law enforcement is going to look at” the incident and predicted Gov. Brian Kemp was “going to do what’s right.”

Despite his recent comments and public calls for further investigation of the two high-profile cases, Trump’s incendiary tweets Friday could chip away at whatever gains his reelection campaign has sought to make with African-American voters ahead of November.