Trump warns 'when looting starts, shooting starts' as Minneapolis burns

Doha Madani

As fires set by protesters outraged over the death of George Floyd burned in Minneapolis early Friday, President Donald Trump warned, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

He threatened to call in the National Guard, labeled the protesters demanding justice in Floyd's in-custody death thugs and criticized Mayor Jacob Frey for losing control over the city.

“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump tweeted.

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

Hours later, Twitter added a public interest notice to the president's tweet.

"This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today," the notice states.

On Thursday, the third night of demonstrations, protesters focused their ire on the Police Department's 3rd Precinct, the base for four officers involved in the incident who were fired after Floyd's death.

Floyd died Monday after an officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.

The precinct station house fire, which was one of several burning in Minneapolis, spread to the interior. Police cleared the building shortly after 10 p.m., when demonstrators forcibly entered and "ignited several fires," department spokesman John Elder said.

The Minnesota Guard said on Twitter that 500 soldiers have been activated for duty in the Twin Cities. "Our mission is to protect life, preserve property and the right to peacefully demonstrate," it said.

Protesters are demanding that the officers involved in Floyd's arrest be charged. Looting and fires have been widespread in the area where Floyd died Monday.

"These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen," Trump tweeted.

Frey responded early Friday, saying, "Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis."

Businesses across the Twin Cities had boarded up their windows and doors Thursday in an effort to prevent looting.

Video of Floyd’s detainment sparked nationwide outrage as it showed the man pleading with officers to let him stand because he was struggling to breathe.

"Please, please, please, I can't breathe," Floyd said in the video. "My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Please, please. I can't breathe."

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The officer kept his knee on his neck for about eight minutes. Medics worked on an unresponsive Floyd in an ambulance, but could not find a pulse after several checks and administering at least one shock to him, according to a report from the Minneapolis Fire Department.

On Wednesday, Trump said that he personally requested the FBI and Department of Justice expedite their own independent investigation into Floyd’s death. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is also investigating.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, along with Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman, offered no significant updates Thursday other than to promise a swift and thorough investigation of the officers involved in the Floyd case.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald said it was imperative the community understood how seriously the department was taking the investigation for Floyd's death.

“It breaks my heart to see what is happening in our streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul and in some of our suburbs,” MacDonald said. “And I am pleading, I am pleading with individuals to stay calm and to let us conduct this investigation.”