New York State’s top prosecutor is threatening to sue President Trump if he follows through on his threat to deploy the United States military to put down domestic protests that were sparked by the police-involved killing of George Floyd.
‘The President of the United States is not a dictator, and President Trump does not and will not dominate New York state,’ Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Monday.
‘In fact, the president does not have the right to unilaterally deploy US military across American states.’
Trump on Monday vowed to order a military crackdown on once-in-a generation violent protests gripping the United States, saying he was sending thousands of troops onto the streets of the capital and threatening to deploy soldiers to states unable to regain control.
He previously called on governors to ‘dominate the streets’ and crack down on protesters.
But AG James said: ‘We respect and will guard the right to peaceful protest, and my office will review any federal action with an eye toward protecting our state’s rights.
‘Rest assured: We will not hesitate to go to court to protect our constitutional rights during this time and well into the future.’
Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, has threatened to sue President Trump (right) if he follows through on his pledge to deploy the military to American cities to put down protests
‘The President of the United States is not a dictator, and President Trump does not and will not dominate New York state,’ James said in a statement on Monday
The dramatic escalation came a week after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who had been pinned down with a knee to the neck by a police officer – leading to the worst civil unrest in decades in New York, Los Angeles and dozens of other American cities.
After being criticized for his silence on the worsening crisis, Trump struck a martial tone in a nationwide address from the White House as police fired tear gas on protesters outside.
‘I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,’ he said.
He slammed the previous night’s unrest in Washington as a ‘total disgrace’ and called on governors to act quickly and forcefully to ‘dominate the streets.’
Thousands of protesters hold a thirty minute silent vigil for the Black Lives Matter movement in McCarren Park located in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn on Monday
‘If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are 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, denouncing ‘acts of domestic terror.’
After his address, protesters outside the White House were cleared with tear gas and rubber bullets so the president could walk across the street to the two-century old St Johns church, hit with graffiti and partially damaged by fire during unrest on Sunday.
‘We have a great country,’ Trump declared as he stood before the church’s boarded up windows, held up a Bible and posed for photographs.
The backlash was swift.
President Trump declared himself the ‘law and order president’ in a tough speech to protesters
President Trump walked across from White House to St. John’s Church to hold up a bible for a photo op
President Trump visited St. John’s church, which was damaged during protests on Sunday night
President Trump walked out of the White House surrounded by Cabinet officials, aides and security
President Trump walks in front of a graffiti filled wall on his way to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church
Police fired tear gas into protesters in front of St. John’s church to clear them out for the president’s photo-op
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Attorney General Bill Barr, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined Trump for his walk to St. John’s Church
President Trump addressed the nation in the White House Rose Garden before walking to St. John’s
‘What the president did today was he called out the American military against American citizens,’ New York governor Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter.
‘He used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church. It’s all just a reality TV show for this president.’
Thousands of people have participated in the demonstrations against police brutality and racism across the country since Floyd’s killing.
It was the most widespread unrest in the United States since 1968, when cities went up in flames over the slaying of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.
Many of the demonstrations have been peaceful and marked by cathartic moments such as officers hugging tearful protesters and marching or kneeling alongside them.
Others have seen rage-filled clashes between protesters and police. One person was shot dead in Louisville, Kentucky.
Floyd’s agonizing death was caught in bystander cell phone video which shows policeman Derek Chauvin pinning him down with his knee for nearly nine minutes as the 46-year-old pleaded for his life with the haunting words: ‘I can’t breathe!’
‘The evidence is consistent with mechanical asphyxia as the cause of death, and homicide as the manner of death,’ Aleccia Wilson, a University of Michigan expert who examined his body at the family’s request, told a news conference.
An initial finding cited in a criminal complaint pointed to pre-existing conditions, outraging the family.
Shortly after the independent report, Hennepin County’s medical examiner released its official autopsy that called his death a homicide caused by ‘neck compression,’ although it also said he was intoxicated and pointed to heart disease.
A memorial for Floyd will take place on Thursday in Minneapolis before a service in North Carolina and a funeral on June 9 in Houston, where he grew up, family lawyer Ben Crump said.
President Donald Trump walks between lines of riot police in Lafayette Park across from the White House after walking to St John’s Church for a photo opportunity
Military vehicles carrying National Guard personnel drive along West Executive Drive inside the White House complex on Monday afternoon
Protesters are tear gassed as the police disperse them near the White House
Police clear demonstrators from Lafayette Park with the White House in the background
U.S. Secret Service uniformed division officers face demonstrators in front of the White House
Police begin to clear demonstrators gather as they protest the death of George Floyd
Attorney General William Barr, center, stands in Lafayette Park before officials began to clear out protesters ahead of Trump’s walk to St. John’s church
Demonstrators hold up their arms in front of a line of police officers as they are sprayed with tear gas
Police clear the area in front of St. John’s church ahead of Trump’s visit
President Trump thrusts his fist in the air as he returns to the White House
Ivanka Trump returns to the White House with President Trump after the president visited St. John’s church
A protester is arrested near the White House
Floyd, 46, had been accused of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.
The autopsy revived demands for the arrest of three other police officers who stood guard for Chauvin as Floyd lay dying.
‘We are tired of oppression,’ said Muna Abdi, a 31-year-old African-American woman at a peaceful demonstration at the Minnesota capitol in St. Paul.
Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and is due to appear in court June 8.
More than 40 cities have imposed curfews, including New York, after consecutive nights of tension that included looting and the trashing of parked cars.
In the upscale SoHo district, Elliot Kurland, owner of the Leica photography store, said his entire shop was emptied by looters. He estimated his loss at $1 million.
‘I had been about to come here at three o’clock in the morning. My brother warned me, “Don’t go down. You’ll get killed”,’ he said.
Louisville, the home of Muhammad Ali and Kentucky Fried Chicken, has seen especially passionate protests due to the police killing in March of an African American woman, Breonna Taylor, in her own apartment.
Trump spent most of the weekend inside the White House tweeting attacks on political rivals and the media.
In a conference call with governors Monday quickly leaked to media outlets, Trump told state leaders they were ‘going to look like a bunch of jerks’ if they were too soft.
The governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, is heard saying he was ‘extraordinarily concerned’ by the president’s ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric.
Joe Biden, Trump’s likely Democratic opponent in November elections, met Monday with black leaders at a church in his home of Wilmington, Delaware and promised to form a police oversight commission in his first 100 days as president.