Bible in hand, Trump visits damaged church and vows overwhelming response to end riots

'America needs creation, not destruction, cooperation, not contempt, security not anarchy, healing not hatred, justice not chaos,' the president said.

Last Updated:
June 1, 2020 - 9:00pm

President Trump on Monday defiantly walked out of the White House and over to the nearby damaged St. John's Episcopal Church, imploring cities to step up efforts to end the destructive rioting.  America needs "healing not hatred, justice not chaos," he declared.

The president's impromptu foray to the damaged church across the street from the White House followed a national address in which he called on cities and states to implement an "overwhelming law enforcement presence" to stop violent riots after George Floyd's death.

"All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd," Trump said in the Rose Garden address. "My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities. And as their president, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you."

Afterward, Trump and members of his White House team walked into adjacent Lafayette Square park, which police cleared of protesters moments earlier, then over to the church, which was set afire overnight by protesters. 

"We have a great county, that's my thoughts, greatest country in the world," he said in front of the church, which every president since James Madison has visited. "We will make it even greater and it won't take long."

Floyd died May 25 after being arrested by Minneapolis police, including one officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck until he became unresponsive. The four arresting officers were immediately fired, and one of them has been charged with murder and manslaughter. 

Trump said in his address Monday that he recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard and that mayors and governors establish an "overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled." 

"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," the president said amid the sound of police discharging teargas canisters to disperse protesters. 

"The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood is an offense to humanity and a crime against God," he continued. "America needs creation, not destruction, cooperation, not contempt, security not anarchy, healing not hatred, justice not chaos. This is our mission, and we will succeed 100%."

Trump declared Sunday that he will designate the radical liberal group Antifa as a terrorist organization after a week of violent riots across the country.

"I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights." Trump said Monday. "First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now." 

Trump also said Monday he was taking "swift and decisive action" to protect Washington, D.C. – in which iconic St. John's, businesses, the World War II Memorial and other American landmarks were damaged.

"What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace,"  Trump said. "Our seven o'clock curfew will be strictly enforced."

Trump also promised "severe criminal penalties" and "lengthly sentences in jail" for those who continue to riot.

"America is founded upon the rule of law," he said. "Where there is no law, there is no opportunity. Where there is no justice, there is no liberty. Where there is no safety, there is no future," Trump said. "I take these actions today with firm resolve and with a true and passionate love for our country. By far, our greatest days lie ahead."

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