The police use tear gas to clear a path for Trump to visit a damaged church.

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The police use tear gas to clear a path for Trump to visit a damaged church.

In his first remarks from the White House since massive protests have swept the country, President Trump said Monday evening that the looting and violent demonstrations in reaction to the death of George Floyd in police custody were “acts of domestic terror.”

Speaking in the Rose Garden as protesters and law enforcement held a tense standoff outside, Mr. Trump said he planned for a police and law enforcement presence to “dominate the streets” and said he would respond with an “overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.”

Mr. Trump said he was among the Americans “rightly sickened and revolted” by the death of Mr. Floyd. But, he said, “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he said.

Just after Mr. Trump concluded his speech, military police from the National Guard clad in camouflage and riot shields surged in front of a line of law enforcement officers pushing protesters back from the mouth of Lafayette Square outside the White House.

Police officers used tear gas and flash grenades to clear out the crowd so Mr. Trump could visit the nearby St. John’s Church, where there had been a parish house basement fire Sunday night. The president stood in front of the boarded up church posing for photographs with a Bible, after the police dispersed peaceful protesters.

Mr. Trump walked back to the White House after a few minutes.

The president’s church visit was criticized by Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who said she was “outraged” that Mr. Trump went to the church “after he threatened to basically rain down military force.”

“The president used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without even asking us, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” she said in an interview.

Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington said the federal police officers’ clearing of peaceful protesters was “shameful” and had made the job of city police officers harder. Libby Garvey, the chair of the Arlington County Board in Virginia, said the county had ordered its police force — which had been helping to patrol the protests in Washington — to return, saying their mutual aid agreement had been “abused.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had berated America’s governors over their response to the protests across the nation, calling the protesters “terrorists,” demanding “retribution,” and warning the governors that they will look like “jerks” if they don’t order protesters arrested and imprisoned.

 
 
 

 

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