President Trump vowed on Monday to order the military to crack down on protesters, and walked outside the White House grounds to survey a nearby damaged church.
The president said he was ordering thousands of troops to Washington, D.C., also said he would deploy the military to states if governors cannot regain control themselves.
“We are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our county,” Trump said. “We will end it now.”
Following his brief address in the Rose Garden, Trump walked to St. John’s Church, which was damaged in a fire during protests on Sunday night. The president held a Bible as he stood in front of the boarded up church building in Lafayette Square, just north of the White House.
“We have the greatest country in the world,” the president said outside the church.
Mayors across the country have imposed curfews after several days of looting and protests in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Earlier on Monday, the president held a conference call with the nation’s governors, calling them “weak” for not cracking down harder on the demonstrations.
Just before the president spoke Monday evening, police deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets nearby to disperse demonstrators.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter that the federal officers had used munitions “without provocation” against peaceful demonstrators.
Trump called the protests in Washington over the weekend “a total disgrace.”
“I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting,
vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said.
CNN earlier reported that about 200-250 active military personnel were heading to the capital to provide security.
The D.C. National Guard — about 1,200 people — had already been deployed on Sunday, following Bowser’s request.
Bowser declared a 7 p.m. curfew on Monday night.
“I am your president of law and order,” Trump said in his address. “Those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”