Late Thursday, President Donald Trump blasted the “total lack of leadership” in Minneapolis, taking to Twitter to say “the Military” is with that state’s governor “all the way" as protests flared over of the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer kneeled on his neck.
“Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way," Trump tweeted. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
On Thursday, Walz called in the National Guard as Minneapolis braced for more violence after rioting over Floyd’s death reduced parts of one neighborhood to a smoking shambles, with burned buildings, looted stores and angry graffiti demanding justice.
Walz earlier Thursday activated the National Guard at the Minneapolis mayor’s request. The Guard tweeted minutes after the precinct burned that it had activated more than 500 soldiers across the metro area. A couple dozen Guard members, armed with assault-style rifles, blocked a street Friday morning near a Target store that has sustained heavy damage by looters.
The Guard said a “key objective” was to make sure fire departments could respond to calls, and said in a follow-up tweet it was “here with the Minneapolis Fire Department” to assist. But no move was made to put out the 3rd Precinct fire. Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said fire crews could not safely respond to fires at the precinct station and some surrounding buildings.
Trump, who called protesters in Minneapolis “thugs,” drew another warning from Twitter for his rhetoric, the latest move in an ongoing feud between the president and a social media company his @RealDonaldTrump account has more than 80 million followers and has issued more than 52,000 tweets.
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” the Twitter warning read. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible. Learn more.”
Officials from the MNNG could not immediately be reached for comment.
Cheering protesters torched a Minneapolis police station that the department abandoned as three days of violent protests spread to nearby St. Paul and angry demonstrations flared across the U.S over the Floyd’s death.
Protests first erupted Tuesday, a day after Floyd's death in a confrontation with police captured on widely seen citizen video. On the video, Floyd can be seen pleading as Officer Derek Chauvin presses his knee against him. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving. The 3rd Precinct covers the portion of south Minneapolis where Floyd was arrested.
Earlier Thursday, dozens of businesses across the Twin Cities boarded up their windows and doors in an effort to prevent looting, with Minneapolis-based Target announcing it was temporarily closing two dozen area stores. Minneapolis shut down nearly its entire light-rail system and all bus service through Sunday out of safety concerns.
In St. Paul, clouds of smoke hung in the air as police armed with batons and wearing gas masks and body armor kept a watchful eye on protesters along one of the city’s main commercial corridors, where firefighters also sprayed water onto a series of small fires. At one point, officers stood in line in front of a Target, trying to keep out looters, who were also smashing windows of other businesses.
Hundreds of demonstrators returned Thursday to the Minneapolis neighborhood at the center of the violence, where the nighttime scene veered between an angry protest and a street party. At one point, a band playing in a parking lot across from the 3rd Precinct broke into a punk version of Bob Marley's “Redemption Song." Nearby, demonstrators carried clothing mannequins from a looted Target and threw them onto a burning car. Later, a building fire erupted nearby.
But elsewhere in Minneapolis, thousands of peaceful demonstrators marched through the streets calling for justice.
Trump’s tweet about the protests marked an escalation in his feud with the social media company.
The earlier tweets that Twitter flagged were not hidden but did come with an option to “get the facts about mail-in ballots," a link that led to fact checks and news stories by media organizations. Those tweets called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted that “mail boxes will be robbed,” among other things.
Twitter’s decision to flag Trump's tweets came as the president continued to use the platform to push a debunked conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host and former congressman Joe Scarborough of killing a staffer in his Florida congressional office in 2001. Medical officials determined the staffer had an undiagnosed heart condition, passed out and hit her head as she fell. Scarborough, who was in Washington, not Florida, at the time, has urged the president to stop his baseless attacks. The staffer's husband also recently demanded that Twitter remove the tweets. The company issued a statement expressing its regret to the husband but so far has taken no other action.
On Thursday, Trump targeted Twitter and other social media companies by signing an executive order challenging the laws that generally protect them from liability for material users post on their platforms.
The order directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies, though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.