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Trump threatens to use military against protests, uses force to get photo op

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WASHINGTON — Trump declared himself the “the president of law and order” and threatened to use the military to put down protests in cities across the country on Monday in the Rose Garden.

The Associated Press reported that as he made those comments, a series of military vehicles rolled out front on Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters at Lafayette Park. The protesters were cleared so he could do a photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church across the street.

“We have the greatest country in the world,” Trump declared. “We’re going to keep it safe.”

According to the AP, Trump said he would mobilize “thousands and thousands” of soldiers to keep the peace if governors did not use the National Guard to shut down the protests.

Defense officials told the news service that between 600 and 800 National Guard members from five states were being sent to Washington to provide assistance. Those troops were either already on the ground or will arrive by midnight.

From the Associated Press:

Under the Civil War-era Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, also from the Civil War, which allows the use of active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.

The officials said that some of the National Guard in D.C. will be armed and others will not. They said that the D.C. guard members do not have non-lethal weapons. The military police that are visible in the city are members of the Guard.

President Donald Trump on Monday derided many governors as “weak” and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing among some demonstrations in the aftermath of violent protests in dozens of American cities.

Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher.”

“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people.”

Cities across the country, and across Illinois, have seen protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

Earlier Monday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a disaster in nine counties across the state that had seen unrest: Champaign, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Macon, Madison, Sangamon and Will.

The counties include most of Illinois’s biggest metro areas.

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