Washington/Minneapolis: President Donald Trump said on Monday he was deploying thousands of heavily armed soldiers and law enforcement to halt violence in the US capital and vowed to do the same in other cities if mayors and governors fail to regain control of the streets.
"Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled," Trump said in the White House Rose Garden as authorities dispersed a peaceful protest with tear gas and rubber bullets blocks away, witnesses said.
"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."
Trump said a 7pm ET curfew in Washington would be strictly enforced after violence, looting and some fires were set on Sunday night, which he called a "disgrace".
As Trump spoke, more blasts from stun grenades could be heard as police on horseback pushed protesters further away from Lafayette Square, a park across from the White House.
After his brief remarks, Trump walked out of the White House - surrounded by dozens of security personnel - across Lafayette Square, to St John's Episcopal Church, which was damaged by fire amid protests on Sunday night.
He stopped in front of boarded-up windows at the yellow church, where many presidents have attended services, along with several members of his administration, including Attorney General William Barr, national security Adviser Robert O'Brien and other top aides.
As an acrid smell still hung in the air, Trump held up a Bible for cameras before walking back to the White House, but took no questions from reporters.
The president said in his White House remarks that he was mobilizing all civilian and military resources "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" - a reference to the US constitutional protections for gun ownership.
"We cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob," Trump said, adding that the nation was gripped by "professional anarchists."
Police use force to disperse protest near White House
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrators near the White House on Monday as US President Donald Trump vowed a massive show of force to end violent protests over the death of a black man in police custody.
The security forces that moved against protesters at the White House included National Guard military police, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security police as well as District of Columbia police.
Anti-police brutality marches and rallies, which have turned violent after dark each night over the last week, erupted over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died in Minneapolis police custody after being pinned beneath a white officer's knee for nearly nine minutes.
A second autopsy ordered by Floyd's family and released on Monday found that his death was a homicide by "mechanical asphyxiation," meaning that physical force interfered with his oxygen supply. The report says three officers contributed to Floyd's death.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner then released details of its autopsy findings that also said Floyd's death was a homicide caused by asphyxiation. The county report added that Floyd suffered cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by police and that he had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use.
Derek Chauvin, the 44-year-old Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on Floyd, was arrested on third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
Latest case of police brutality
Dozens of cities across the United States remain under curfews not seen since riots after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The National Guard deployed in 23 states and Washington, D.C.
The curfews were imposed as most Americans were still emerging from weeks of strict "stay-at-home" orders imposed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, dozens of people paid their respects to Floyd outside Cup Foods, the scene of his death, leaving flowers and signs. A little girl wrote, "I'll fight with you," in aqua blue chalk in the road.
"This is therapeutic. My heart was real heavy this morning so I came down extra early and when I got here, the heaviness lifted,” said Diana Jones, 40, the mother of four children. "This right here let's me know that things are going to be OK."
Terrence Floyd, the victim's brother, told the gathering he wanted people to get educated and vote rather than resort to violence and destruction. "Let's do this another way," he said.
Floyd's death was the latest to prompt an outcry over racism in US law enforcement. It reignited outrage across a politically and racially divided country that has been hit hard by the pandemic, with African Americans accounting for a disproportionately high number of cases.
Trump, a Republican, has condemned the killing of Floyd and promised justice but has described protesters as "thugs."
Critics accuse him of stoking conflict and racial tension when he should be uniting the nation and addressing underlying issues, and his appearance at St. John's Church sparked condemnation.
"I am outraged," Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes the church, said on CNN. Trump's message was antithetical to church teachings, she said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the use of force against demonstrators to make way for Trump to hold the picture-taking opportunity. "It was really, truly shameful," he said.