'Racist president': Democrats accuse Trump of inciting violence in Minneapolis

Reaction was fierce to the president using the term "thugs" and saying, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."
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A protester in Minneapolis on Thursday night.Julio Cortez / AP

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Democrats on Friday slammed President Donald Trump for what they said was inciting violence by protesters in Minneapolis demonstrating over the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

Joe Biden, the apparent 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted: "I will not lift the President's tweet. I will not give him that amplification. But he is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many. I'm furious, and you should be too."

Biden was referring to Trump's tweet from early Friday morning when Trump said: "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. 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. Thank you!"

Twitter labeled Trump’s tweet as one that violated the company’s policy because it glorified violence in the last line.

Hillary Clinton tweeted that Trump is "calling for violence against American citizens."

"That is so wrong. We need honest reckoning and reconciliation,” Clinton wrote. “If you haven't already joined the work to replace him in November, start now."

The phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was used by Miami's police chief, Walter Headley, in 1967, when he addressed his department's crackdown on "slum hoodlums" who he claimed were taking advantage of the civil rights movement. Headley was denounced by civil rights leaders at the time and called a racist by some.

Referring to the historical connotation, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., tweeted, "I doubt the President knows this history, but I don't doubt he knows exactly what he's doing and what sentiments he's trying to appeal to. Just as he did after Charlottesville and when he took out his newspaper ads calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five."

Taylor Swift also weighed in on Twitter: "After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’??? We will vote you out in November. @realdonaldtrump."

Speaking to reporters in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the events leading to the protests "absolutely horrendous," but said that the demonstrations should be peaceful.

"This senseless violence in reaction to this is not helpful to anyone, I hope it will stop," he said outside St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas hospital. McConnell, however, declined to comment on Trump's tweets and only said: "I can speak for myself. I think what's happening in Louisville and Minneapolis really needs to stop."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., asked his Twitter followers what people will do today to win in November, saying that it’s a scary time with 100,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic and "a president calling for the murder of political opponents and protesters."

Similarly, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a possible vice presidential pick for Biden, tweeted, "Trump's tweets yet again show what racism looks like. This is why we need new leadership. Vote."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also tweeted, "When someone tells you who they are, believe them. The Impeached President is a violent white supremacist."

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., tweeted: "Trump's behavior is growing increasingly unhinged, authoritarian, and outright violent and is designed to inflame and divide America further. This is absolutely disgusting and I reject his incitements with every fiber of my body."

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., tweeted a screenshot of the tweet flagged by Twitter along with one from early May in which Trump called protesters in Michigan over the state's coronavirus stay-at-home order "very good people."

"This is what a racist president looks like," Beyer said about the statements.

Several Republican lawmakers accused Twitter of censoring Trump's comments even though they were not removed by the social media platform.

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said that Twitter was censoring Trump's "clear attempt to prevent more violence in Minneapolis."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted that everyone should be "outraged" by Floyd's death and that it "merits a thorough investigation & appropriate accountability." He said, however, that "riots & looting are self-defeating & never justified." He made no mention of the president's remarks.

Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., who left the Republican Party last year and is a frequent critic of the president, tweeted :"The president should be working to calm the situation, not using rhetoric and threats to escalate it. Nobody should comply with an unlawful order from this president or anyone else."