WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday said demonstrators protesting the death of a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck would have been “greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, responded to the Republican president on Twitter, saying there “are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man.”
“While he (Trump) hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd and hundreds of years of institutionalized racism,” said Bowser, who is black.
Floyd’s death on Monday in Minneapolis has sparked demonstrations, some of them violent, in many cities across the nation, including one in Washington on Friday.
The White House was temporarily locked down as hundreds of people gathered on Friday afternoon across the street in Lafayette Square Park.
After marching away, demonstrators assembled again later and videos showed pushing-and-shoving matches between officers and protesters trying to push over metal barriers. The crowd dispersed early Saturday morning.
In tweets hours later, Trump praised the Secret Service officers who guard the White House as “very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe.”
“Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons,” he said. “Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.”
Trump accused Bowser of refusing to send D.C. police to help. But the Secret Service said in a statement that “The Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police were on the scene.”
Secret Service officers made six arrests, the statement said.
“Some of the demonstrators were violent” and assaulted Secret Service personnel with bricks, bottles, fireworks and other objects, and an undisclosed number of Secret Service officers were injured, the statement said.
Trump appeared to call his supporters to rally outside the executive mansion on Saturday evening, saying, “TONIGHT, I UNDERSTAND IS MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???” MAGA stands for Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”
He later said he did not know if any would show up.
On Friday, Trump drew a warning from Twitter and condemnation from Democrats after posting a comment that “looting leads to shooting,” suggesting protesters who turned to looting could be fired upon.
Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Daniel Wallis