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ACLU: Trump’s ‘Looting’ and ‘Shooting’ Tweet Suggested That Law Enforcement ‘Should Literally Murder Protestors’

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Friday denounced President Donald Trump’s incendiary tweets concerning the civil unrest in Minneapolis, saying that the president was “directing the national guard to murder protestors.”

The protests began in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. However, the demonstrations also resulted in looting, reaching a nadir overnight when multiple fires were set inside the Minneapolis Police Department’s third precinct and elsewhere.

President Trump responded Friday morning on Twitter by threatening to send the “military” into Minneapolis, calling violent protestors “thugs,” and repeating an evocative phrase made famous by noted racist and segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” Trump tweeted.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he wrote in a follow-up tweet flagged by Twitter as glorifying violence. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

According to director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality Jeffery Robinson, those last seven words constituted an illegal directive for the national guard to murder demonstrators.

“President Trump’s statement that ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ is hypocritical, immoral, and illegal,” Robinson said. “While President Trump has recently claimed to be concerned about honoring the memory of Mr. Floyd, his actions consistently demonstrate a gross disregard for the racial terror and police violence that communities of color across the country experience on a regular basis. We call on the National Guard and law enforcement in Minneapolis to comply with the law and not President Trump.”

Robinson also said that Trump’s previous statements on the topics of law enforcement and racism in America portended such an inflammatory statement.

“President Trump has told police officers in New York that they should feel free to use violence against ‘thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon.’ He did not hesitate to claim to a foreign leader that there is no racial problem in America,” he said. “The president’s latest suggestion that law enforcement or the military should literally murder protesters is, unfortunately, no longer shocking. President Trump’s response ignores the fact that the inherent problem is not the reaction to Mr. Floyd’s murder. The problem is Mr. Floyd’s murder.”

Robinson condemned the rioting in Minneapolis, but said holding the officers responsible for Floyd’s death accountable is “the bare minimum needed to show that our legal system recognizes that Black lives actually matter.”

[image via SAUL LOEB_AFP via Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.