US President Donald Trump today threatened to stop looters in Minneapolis with deadly military force, after that city weathered a third night of arson and rioting over the police killing of an unarmed black man.
Some congressional Democrats denounced as racist Trump's Twitter threat, which called the looters "THUGS" and warned "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Twitter for the first time hid the Trump tweet behind a warning banner that accused the president of "glorifying violence."
That came after Trump signed an executive order on Thursday threatening new regulations on social media firms. He relies heavily on Twitter to bring his message directly to his 80 million followers on the site, but also has repeatedly accused it and other social media sites of censuring conservatives.
Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, has a history of inflaming racial tensions. He blamed "both sides" for violence between white supremacists and left-wing counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and has called illegal immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border rapists.
His early Friday tweet suggested that security forces would open fire on looters to curtail unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.
Protests over his death and other killings like it have spread to cities including Los Angeles and Denver, with a protest expected in New York on Friday.
Trump said in his tweet: "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. 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!"
The phrase about shooting dates back to US police crackdowns on civil rights in the 1960s.
Democrats accused Trump of making the situation worse.
"He is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many. I'm furious, and you should be too," Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden said in a tweet.
US Representative Rashida Tlaib, one of the most liberal voices in Congress, took a harsher tone: "The Impeached President is a violent white supremacist."
Trump issued his tweet amid days of turmoil in Minneapolis, which was engulfed in a third night of arson, looting and vandalism as protesters vented their rage over Floyd's death.
Four police officers involved in Floyd's death have been fired and the FBI is investigating. Trump has condemned the killing and promised justice.
Trump's re-election campaign has identified Minnesota as a state he could win in 2020 after narrowly losing it in 2016.