US President Donald Trump sparked controversy on Friday, calling it a “great day” for George Floyd, the man whose death in custody on May 25 unleashed nationwide protests over police brutality against African Americans.
In a televised address, Trump said, “We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen”.
“Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country”, the President added.
The remarks came eleven days after Floyd’s death and sparked confusion as to why Trump thought it was a great day for Floyd.
Death of 46-year-old African-American man George Floyd who was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit banknote on May 25 has sparked protests across major cities in the US.
A Minneapolis policeman accused of killing unarmed Floyd by kneeling on his neck was taken into custody on Friday and charged with third-degree murder. Three other officers with him have been fired but for now face no charges.
“This is a great, great day in terms of equality,” Trump said.
The US leader’s “great day” comments were seen by many as too closely conflating Floyd’s death and the day’s good economic news, and as speaking on behalf of Floyd on the economy.
Trump on Monday deployed thousands of “heavily armed” soldiers and police to prevent further protests in Washington, where buildings and monuments have been vandalized near the White House.
The protests turned violent across the US that left at least five people dead and over 4,000 people arrested earlier this week.
A video taken by a bystander shows officer officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck as he is pinned to the ground. Floyd who was unarmed and handcuffed, pleaded that he could not breathe. He was soon after declared dead at a nearby hospital.
Earlier, Trump blamed the extreme left for the violence and said that rioters were dishonoring the memory of Floyd.
Trump reiterated on Friday that authorities need to “dominate the streets,” and criticized governors in states that had rejected sending in the National Guard during protests and rioting.
On Wednesday, former Pentagon chief James Mattis issued a stinging rebuke of his previous boss Trump and accused him of trying to “divide” America and failing to provide “mature leadership” as the country reels from days of protests.
Mattis wrote that the protesters’ call for equal justice was a “wholesome and unifying demand — one that all of us should be able to get behind.”
Police and protesters clashed in numerous cities including Chicago and New York, with officers responding to projectiles with pepper spray while shop windows were smashed in Philadelphia.
The United States also faced unusual, if polite, criticism from some international allies including Germany, Britain and Australia.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the anti-racism protests “understandable and more than legitimate.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed that he has “done more for the black community than any President since Abraham Lincoln,” who abolished slavery in the 1860s.
Floyd’s killing was seen as the latest example of police brutality against African Americans, which gave rise six years ago to the Black Lives Matter movement.