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Trump: 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts' in response to Minneapolis protests

President Trump was reacting to a third night of violent protests over the death of George Floyd.
President Donald Trump speaks as he receives a briefing on the 2020 hurricane season in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump took to Twitter early Friday morning, calling out the protests in Minneapolis, declaring the mayor "weak," threatening to send in the National Guard and declaring "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

It came on the third night of violent protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on Memorial Day after a white police officer knelt on his neck until he became unresponsive. The incident was caught on video and has been seen worldwide.

Protesters began gathering in the early afternoon near the city's 3rd Precinct station, in the southern part of the city where 46-year-old Floyd died Monday. By the end of the night, protesters broke into a the precinct after the department abandoned it, setting it ablaze and setting off fireworks. The protests spread to nearby St. Paul and angry demonstrations flared across the U.S.

On Thursday, Trump, who has often been silent in the face of white-on-black violence and has a long history of defending police, offered a softer tone in regards to Floyd's death.

“I feel very, very badly," Trump said. "That’s a very shocking sight.”

But just before 1 a.m. EDT Friday, Trump tweeted, "I can't stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis." He called out "very weak Radical Left" Mayor Jacob Frey to "get his act together" or he would send in the National Guard and "get the job done right."

Trump added about the protesters that "these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd."

The president then said he told Gov. Tim Walz that the military is with him.

"Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!" Trump concluded.

That last line is the same quote made by former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley. The following is an excerpt from a December 28, 1967 article by United Press International about what was described as Headley's "shotgun crackdown on Negro slum hoodlums."

"In declaring war on 'young hoodlums, from 15 to 21, who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign,' Headley said, 'we don’t mind being accused of police brutality.'

'They haven’t seen anything, yet.'

Headley said Miami hasn't been troubled with racial disturbances and looting because he let the word filter down, 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts.'"

As of the time this article was published, Trump had not posted any additional comments on the riots nor clarified what he meant by the statement.