Trump Warns Protesting ‘Minneapolis Thugs’ of ‘Shoot At Sight’; Draws Wide Criticism

US President Donald Trump has lambasted out at those protesting in Minneapolis over the death of a black man in police custody and tweeted – when the looting starts, shooting starts.

Trump said he would not “stand back and watch this happen to a great American City”, adding that he had spoken to Minnesota governor Tim Waltz and told him “the military is with him all the way”. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Mr Trump warned.

Protesters in Minneapolis are demanding criminal charges against four police officers who were involved in the arrest of 46-year-old George Floyd.

Floyd died in the police custody after pleading to the officers “I can’t breathe”, with video of the incident showing one policeman stood over Floyd with his knee in his kneck. All four officers have been dismissed from their posts.

Earlier on Thursday night, cheering demonstrators torched a police station after it was evacuated by the retreating force, while severe demonstration have also spread to the twin city of St Paul. A police spokesperson confirmed that officers had vacated the 3rd Precinct station, the focus of many of the protests, “in the interest of the safety of our personnel” shortly after 10 pm.

Trump accused the clashes on what he called the “total lack of leadership” in the city, reprimanding “ the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey”. Mr Frey has joined agitators in demanding for a criminal investigation of Floyd’s death while requesting for calm. He also requested the National Guard on Thursday.

In response, Governor Walz activated the state’s troops and declared the situation a “peacetime emergency”. He said looting and vandalism were damaging to many businesses, including those owned by minorities, and asked demonstrations to stay calm.

“George Floyd’s death should lead to justice and systemic change, not more death and destruction,” he said in a statement. Moments after pictures emerged of the 3rd Precinct station burning, the Guard tweeted that it had deployed 500 troops across the city and that its “key objective” was to allow firefighters to do their work safely.