U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday he will deploy military forces if necessary to crack down on violence that has accompanied a week of protests over the death of a black man in police custody in Minnesota.
Calling himself a "president of law and order," Trump said, "If a city or a 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."
Protests against racial injustice have swept the country over the police's brutal treatment of George Floyd, 46, following his arrest outside a shop on May 25 for allegedly using a counterfeited bill. Video footage shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck while he was pinned to the ground and gasping for air. He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.
Some demonstrations have grown violent with looting taking place and vehicles and buildings torched. In the U.S. capital, fires were set at a historic church and sites near the White House on Sunday night, with some monuments and buildings covered with graffiti.
"What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace," Trump said at the White House on Monday, adding that he is dispatching "thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers" to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism and assaults.
He also said a curfew will be "strictly enforced" and "those who threaten innocent life and property will be arrested, detained and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
A tense standoff was seen between the police and protesters just before Trump delivered his remarks at the White House on Monday. U.S. media showed tear gas and rubber bullets fired at protesters to disperse the crowd.
The mayor of the U.S. capital imposed a 7 p.m. curfew on Monday and Tuesday, after instituting an 11 p.m. curfew on Sunday.