WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump warned that protesters outside the White House Friday night could have been “greeted” with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” if they had breached the fence, and praised the Secret Service for their response to the demonstrations.
“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would….have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.
“Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. [Secret Service],” Trump added. “I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe.”
Thousands of people gathered in front of the White House Friday night in protest of George Floyd’s death, prompting the Secret Service to put the White House on lockdown. A woman was taken into custody after she climbed over a barrier.
Floyd, a black man, died Monday when a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd down on the ground for almost nine minutes after taking him into custody. The incident was caught on multiple cameras and Floyd could be heard pleading with the officer, saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Trump said that whenever a protestor got too “frisky” the Secret Service agents would “come down on them hard” and that the agents were “just waiting for action.”
Trump appeared to quote an agent, writing on Twitter “‘We put the young ones on the front line, sir, they love it…’”
Trump tweeted that Saturday would be “MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE,” but it is unclear what he was referencing.
Trump also wrote on Twitter that “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!”
Antifa groups, short for anti-fascists, organized counter-protests to the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Trump was criticized for saying that there were “very fine people” on both sides, despite the killing of Heather Heyer by a Unite the Right participant.
Trump was asked at the White House on Friday if he was willing to say there there were “good people” protesting in Minneapolis.
“Well, certainly there were a lot of different people, and they were good people too,” Trump said.
Attorney General William Barr also blamed anti-fascists groups on Saturday for escalating the protests.
“In many places it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups — far let extremist groups — using antifa-like tactics, many of whom traveled from outside the state to promote the violence,” Barr said, adding that the Department of Justice was prepared to “take all action necessary to enforce federal law.”
While Barr did not offer any evidence to support this statement, a Department of Justice spokesperson says that information and intelligence is being provided to federal authorities by state and local law enforcement who are familiar with various groups and individuals.
Shortly after Barr spoke, Trump tweeted, “Crossing State lines to incite violence is a FEDERAL CRIME! Liberal Governors and Mayors must get MUCH tougher or the Federal Government will step in and do what has to be done, and that includes using the unlimited power of our Military and many arrests. Thank you!
Trump has been criticized for inciting violence and shirking his responsibility as president to call for peaceful demonstrations in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
During a speech to NASA following Saturday’s successful SpaceX launch, Trump said, “I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas.”
“But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or with peace,” he said. “The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists.”
“The mobs are devastating the life’s work of good people and destroying their dreams,” Trump said. Right now, America needs creation, not destruction. Cooperation, not contempt. Security, not anarchy. And there will be no anarchy.”
Twitter put a tweet from Trump about the protests behind a warning label early Friday, stating that he had violated its rules against glorifying violence because of the historical context of his last line: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Trump’s comments about the Floyd protesters are in stark contrast to how he has called on other world leaders to respond to civil unrest.
In January, Trump tweeted “To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” after nationwide demonstrations broke in response to a 50 percent hike in gas prices and escalated after the Iranian government admitted it shot down a passenger plane.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem,” Trump tweeted, adding that he was confident Xi could “humanely” resolve the situation.