President Donald Trump on Monday derided many governors as “weak” and demanded tougher crackdowns on burning and stealing among some demonstrations in the aftermath of violent protests in dozens of American cities.
Trump spoke to governors on a video teleconference that also included law enforcement and national security officials, telling the state leaders they “have to get much tougher.”
“Most of you are weak,” Trump said. “You have to arrest people.”
The days of protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. The demonstrations turned violent in several cities, with people trashing stores, smashing and burning police cars and igniting fires in historic Lafayette Park across from the White House.
The president urged the governors to deploy the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
“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,” said Trump. “We’re doing it in Washington, D.C. We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before.”
The president told the governors they were making themselves “look like fools” for not calling up more of the National Guard as a show for force on city streets.
Ohio’s three largest cities extended emergency curfews Monday, hoping to avoid a repeat of the violent protests that resulted in shattered windows and graffiti-covered government buildings.
Cleveland essentially sealed off its downtown Monday, blocking freeway ramps and major streets. Only those living in the area and essential workers were allowed to pass. Even those living downtown were told not to venture out unless they needed to walk their dogs or buy food.
Protesters rallied again in Cincinnati and Columbus on Monday, but there were no reports of problems in the afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies in Cincinnati kneeled for a moment at the urging of protesters outside the county courthouse.
Dozens marched around the Statehouse in Columbus where Mayor Andrew Ginther said the city’s curfew during evening hours will continue indefinitely.
In Cincinnati, the nighttime curfew was extended through Monday. More than 200 people were arrested over the weekend during protests sparked by the May 25 death of Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
Some of those who said they were arrested in Cincinnati complained on social media about the jail conditions. A Hamilton County sheriff’s spokesman told the Cincinnati Enquirer that about 100 people were kept in an enclosed area without a roof but were treated well.
Cleveland’s decision to continue its curfew two more days created confusion Monday morning when commuters trying to get to work weren’t allowed past roadblocks set up by the National Guard and local authorities. The city said it was urging downtown businesses to stay closed and that most workers would not be allowed in the restricted area.
Gov. Mike DeWine had called out the Guard and highway patrol Saturday to help enforce laws in Cleveland and Columbus, where the mayors said more than 100 properties were damaged.
Across the state, the damage was still being tallied from the unrest that also swept up Toledo, Akron and Dayton.
Sam Mabrouk, who moved to Columbus from Egypt more than a decade ago, said he tried to stop protesters who vandalized his downtown store Friday and made off with piles of premium men’s and women’s denim.
“I lost everything in one night,” Mabrouk said of the estimated $70,000 in merchandise. “That was my savings from 11 years of working. That’s what hurts more than anything.”
He said he remembers marching in protests against Egypt’s authoritarian regime and that he tried to convince the people ransacking his store and other minority-owned businesses in the area that he was on their side.
“If somebody took my clothing and they need it, I forgive them,” Mabrouk said. “I do not forgive the ones who took it just to be a part of the violence and who don’t need it.”