WASHINGTON — President Trump told governors that they need to “dominate” in response to the ongoing unrest tearing through the nation, taking an inflammatory approach after days of civil rights protests over the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
"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. You have to dominate,” Trump told governors and law enforcement officers during a Monday morning call, according to audio obtained by VICE News.
"You’ve got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again,” Trump said.
“The harder you are, the tougher you are, the less likely it is you’re going to be hit with the movement,” he continued.
Those protests, which have sometimes turned violent, have taken place in dozens of cities across the U.S. and landed in Trump’s own front yard. Protesters have gathered in front of the White House in Washington for days, and those protests turned violent on Saturday and Sunday nights, with some cars overturned and a number of office and store windows smashed.
Trump warned that he plans to practice what he preaches in the face of ongoing unrest.
"Washington was under very good control, but we’re going to have it under much more control. We’re going to pull in thousands of people,” he said.
Trump repeatedly said the violent protesters were anarchist agitators, tying them to the left-wing Occupy Wall Street movement and calling for law enforcement and prosecutors to come down heavy on them.
“They are professional anarchists in many cases… They have bricks, they come armed with bricks, and they have bricks and rocks, big rocks, and they have other things and throw them. And you know, you are allowed to fight back; you don’t have to have a brick hit you in the face and you don’t do anything about it. You’re allowed to fight back,” he said at one point.
“When somebody’s throwing a rock, that’s like shooting a gun. What’s the difference between having a brick that weighs 10 pounds hit somebody in the face, wipes them out practically? And there’s no retribution. So you have to do retribution, in my opinion. You have to use your own legal system for that,” he said later in the call. “You have to prosecute people.”
Trump has yet to publicly address the ongoing unrest besides a brief comment Saturday lamenting Floyd’s death . But he’s taken a harshly militaristic, at times violent tone in discussing the protests.
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he said in a Friday night tweet calling the protesters in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, “thugs.” On Sunday, he doubled down with the all-caps tweet “LAW & ORDER,” after saying that he’d declare antifa a terrorist organization, without presenting any evidence the group was behind the looting and vandalism that has scarred many cities.
The call grew tense at times. When Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Trump’s rhetoric was “inflammatory and not OK,” Trump fired back, “I don’t like your rhetoric much either” and slammed Pritzker's coronavirus response before defending his own comments on Floyd’s death.
“I’ve spoken about it often and I’ve spoken about it with great compassion. I think it’s a horrible thing that happened, and I spoke about it on numerous occasions in numerous speeches. I even spoke about it at our great rocket launch. I covered it before I covered the rocket,” Trump said, referring to the SpaceX launch on Saturday. “Nobody can tell me I haven’t spoken about it, I've spoken about it at great length, at great length, and I’ll continue to speak about it. But I also have to speak about law and order. We need law and order in our country. If we don’t have law and order, we don’t have a country, so we need law and order.”
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after the successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the manned Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by Saul Martinez/Getty Images)