Former US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey has slammed President Donald Trump for his handling of nationwide protests against police violence and systemic racism sparked by the recent police killing of unarmed, handcuffed African-American man George Floyd.
“The idea that the president would take charge of the situation using the military was troubling to me,” Dempsey said in an interview NPR on Thursday.
“The idea that the military would be called in to dominate and to suppress what, for the most part, were peaceful protests — admittedly, where some had opportunistically turned them violent — and that the military would somehow come in and calm that situation was very dangerous to me,” he added.
Protests continued into their tenth night in dozens of American cities following a private memorial service in Minneapolis for Floyd, who was killed last week.
Trump has called on the country’s governors to deploy their national guards, urging them earlier in the week that they needed to “dominate” protestors.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, has broken with Trump on using the country’s military forces to crush protests, seeking justice for Floyd.
The Pentagon chief said on Wednesday that he would not invoke the Insurrection Act, which would allow Trump to use the National Guard against protester
Trump’s own former defense secretary, James Mattis, even denounced his handling of nationwide anti-racism protests, saying the president is trying to turn Americans against each other.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis said in his rebuke of the president. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
Former US defense Secretary William Perry said that the US military “was never intended to be used against American citizens, and it was never intended to be used for partisan political purposes.”
Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after former police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest.
Hundreds of mourners attended an emotional memorial service in Minneapolis on Thursday for Floyd
Floyd’s attorney told mourners he would find justice for the 46-year-old. “It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd,” said Benjamin Crump, who is representing Floyd’s family. “It was that other pandemic. The pandemic of racism and discrimination.”
Floyd’s death has reignited long-felt anger over police killings of African-Americans and unleashed a nationwide wave of civil unrest unlike any seen in the US since Martin Luther King Jr’s 1968 assassination.
US civil rights groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Trump, after police fired tear gas to clear peaceful demonstrators outside the White House before the president walked to a church for a photo op earlier this week.