Speaking from the Rose Garden on Monday evening, Donald Trump issued an unprecedented threat from an American president: that he would send “thousands of heavily armed soldiers” into Washington, D.C., to quell protests and would follow by invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy the military into other U.S. cities if mass protests against police brutality continued.
As he spoke, federal law enforcement officials working alongside military police officers fired projectiles and tear gas upon American citizens protesting peacefully just yards from the White House so that the president could be photographed holding up a Bible in front of a nearby church.
Democrats and a former military official condemned the president’s surreal display of authoritarianism. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) called Trump’s orders “the actions of a dictator.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said Trump was “unleashing authoritarian violence on our fellow Americans.” And retired Gen. Martin Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared on Twitter, “Our fellow citizens are not the enemy.”
Other members of Congress, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Val Demings (D-Fla.), likened Trump’s speech to fascism. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) called his actions “naked authoritarianism.”
“He’s using the American military against the American people,” presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a recent contender for the nomination and a possible vice presidential selection, tweeted, “Lives and our democracy are in danger.”
Elected Republicans were mostly silent; a few suggested that Trump adjust his tone.
Twenty minutes before a 7 p.m. curfew in D.C. went into effect and moments after Attorney General William Barr observed the police line near the White House, federal law enforcement fired tear gas into a peaceful...