June 1, 2020
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” President Donald Trump threatened by tweet early on Friday, May 30, as Minneapolis and other urban centers nationwide faced violent protests—touched off by the murder of a black man by a white police officer, who placed his knee on the victim’s neck for more than five minutes, despite hearing his cries of “I can’t breathe.”
That officer and four other backup cops have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department; however, they have not been arrested and no charges have been filed, while the department and federal authorities investigate the incident.
Trump began tweeting about the unrest in Minneapolis around 1 a.m., as cable news showed the police station— where the four city police officers involved in the death of George Floyd were assigned—Inengulfed in a fire set by protesters a short time earlier, The New York Times reported. Protesters also had begun looting businesses in the area.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” Trump said on Twitter. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” the president wrote in another tweet, which was flagged by Twitter. “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!”
In saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” the president intentionally echoed a phrase coined by a Miami police chief in the 1960s about crackdowns on black neighborhoods during times of unrest.
Twitter officials responded to the threat by appending the tweets with a note saying the posts were “glorifying violence.” The social media site also made it more difficult for readers to see the feed of those comments: “Mr. Trump’s post can now only be seen after users click a box with a notice saying it violated Twitter’s rules against encouraging violence, but it otherwise remains visible.”
The official White House Twitter account repeated Trump’s comments in a Friday morning tweet, and Twitter appended the same notice to that tweet. The same comments appeared on Mr. Trump’s Facebook account without a cautionary notice.
“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” Twitter said on its official communications account.
Research contact: @nytimes