United States (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, George Floyd, in the hand of a police officer, Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin and three of his colleagues have been dismissed.
He has also been charged with third degree murder.
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 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 Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes.
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.
Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Monday, imposed a curfew for New York City as protesters of the death of Floyd prepare for another night of demonstration.
Speaking in a live radio programme, Cuomo said the curfew would hold between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Tuesday, and could be extended depending on the situation.
The directive came after protests in parts of the city turned violent, resulting in vandalisation and looting of dozens of shops from late Sunday night into early Monday.
About 4,000 police personnel were deployed to maintain law and order during the Sunday protests, a number the governor said would be doubled.
“There is going to be a curfew in New York City that we think could be helpful and more importantly there is going to be an increase in the force in New York City.
“There will be double that (number of policemen), about 8,000, tonight.
“It is from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight and then we’ll see where we are tomorrow,” Cuomo said.
He said the move was necessitated by the “violent looting, vandalism and clashes” that had characterised the protests in the city.
The governor said the protests had been partly hijacked by criminals whose aim, according to him, is to destroy.
New York City Mayor, Mr Bill de Blasio, who also announced the curfew on Twitter, said in a statement that violence should not be allowed to undermine the “message of this moment”.
Many U.S. cities, including Washington, have seen violent street demonstrations over the death of Floyd, an African-American, in Minneapolis on May 25.
The protesters are demanding an end to racism and police brutality, a struggle that has gained the support of prominent figures and police officers themselves.
On Monday, two doctors engaged by Floyd’s family to conduct an independent autopsy on his body declared his death a homicide.
They said the 46-year-old died from asphyxiation (lack of oxygen) after dismissed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
The finding contradicts the findings of an initial official autopsy which said it found no evidence of traumatic strangulation.
In a related development, United Nations
(UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has appealed for restraint and social cohesion as violent protests grow across the United States over police brutality.
Guterres’ spokesman, Mr Stéphane Dujarric, conveyed his message while addressing UN correspondents on Monday.
“The situation we are seeing today we have seen in different parts of the world before.
“Grievances must be heard, but they must be expressed in peaceful ways, and authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrators,” he said.
Temper flared in the black community after a video went viral on social media showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as life went out of him.
The initially peaceful demonstrations have turned violent in some areas resulting in looting, arson and clashes between the protesters and police.
Although Chauvin has been dismissed and charged with third-degree murder, the protesters say the charge is too light, and are demanding more action.
They are also calling for the prosecution of three other officers involved in the man’s death and an end to racial discrimination in the country.
The UN spokesman reiterated the organisation’s call for thorough investigations in cases of police brutality.
Noting that “diversity is a richness and not a threat” in any country, Dujarric said that its success depends on massive investment in social cohesion.
This, according to him, includes “reducing inequalities, addressing possible areas of discrimination, strengthening social protection and providing opportunities for all”.
“These efforts, these investments need to mobilise national governments, local authorities, the private sector, civil society, faith based organisations and society as a whole.
“We have always said that police forces around the world need to have adequate human rights training.
“And there also needs to be an investment in social and psychological support for police so they can do their job properly in terms of protecting the community,” he said.