CNN anchor Don Lemon asked Monday if Donald Trump is “declaring war on Americans” after the president’s surreal Rose Garden address promising a crackdown on nationwide anti-racism demonstrations, even as police could be heard deploying tear gas on protesters outside the White House.
“Open your eyes, America. Open your eyes. We are teetering on a dictatorship. This is chaos,” Lemon said. “Is the president declaring war on Americans?”
“What is happening here?” he added, as footage showed police and military troops facing protesters near the White House. “He’s saying he wants to protect peaceful protesters. At the same time, sending law enforcement and military into the streets to push peaceful protesters back, to be aggressive with peaceful protesters. He is doing the exact opposite of what he said in that speech.”
Calling himself “your law-and-order president,” Trump announced in his Rose Garden address that he would mobilise “all available” civilian and military resources to “stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
He made no note of the heavy-handed actions police used against protesters in the last several days and made no effort to call for national unity.
Earlier, CNN showed footage of protesters outside the White House demonstrating peacefully, then being met with flash-bang grenades and tear gas as authorities attempted to divert them ahead of Trump’s address.
“I think the president is playing a very, very dangerous game here,” Lemon continued. “There are a lot of Americans who are out on these streets who are upset, who are frustrated, who are angry.”
He added that he was “not condoning violence at all” and hoped that protests would continue to be peaceful, adding: “But I hope that they stand up and fight for their rights to peacefully protest in this country.”
Tens of thousands of people around the country have taken to the streets after the death of George Floyd ― a Black man killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck last Monday ― and the killing of other Black people ignited national outrage.