WASHINGTON. – President Donald Trump, facing criticism that his policies and inflammatory rhetoric have aggravated a racial divide in the United States, signed an order on Tuesday that he said would reform police practices even as he pressed for “law and order” nationwide.
After weeks of protests against racism and policy brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis, Trump sought to offer a policy response to rising concerns about racial injustice going into the Nov. 3 election, in which he is seeking a second term.
Trump, a Republican, opened his remarks by expressing sympathy to the families of victims of police violence, pledging to fight for justice and promising them their loved ones will not have died in vain. But he quickly pivoted to a defense of law enforcement officers and a threat of penalties to looters.
“Americans want law and order, they demand law and order,” Trump said at a ceremony at the White House, reiterating a call that has angered protesters who have poured onto streets from New York to Los Angeles.
“Americans know the truth: Without police there is chaos, without law there is anarchy, and without safety there is catastrophe,” he said.
In his public comments and on Twitter, Trump has called for crackdowns on protesters and emphasized a forceful and militarized response to the social unrest sparked by the death of Floyd and others. Despite issuing a call for unity, he used his Rose Garden address on Tuesday to criticize former President Barack Obama, the first black US president, for his record on police reforms. Opinion polls show widespread concerns among Americans about police brutality.