(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The last six nights have featured gut wrenching images of major cities in the U.S. in chaos as violent riots seem to be stealing the media narrative from much larger participation in peaceful protests regarding the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Monday night, President Donald Trump prioritized order in the nation’s capital following nights of riots and looting, where national monuments were defaced, a historic church was set ablaze, business and personal property were damaged and innocent people were injured.

The President definitively proclaimed that his first and highest duty as President is to defend the country and the American people, adding, “I swore an oath to uphold the laws of our nation, and that is exactly what I will do.”

Military assets have been authorized to help quell the domestic unrest.

“To ensure the safety and security of the American people, President Donald Trump took decisive action to activate the National Guard and local police forces to take back control of Washington, D.C.,” a White House official told Y’all Politics.

The President has said such actions could be taken in states if riots do not cease.

Mississippi is no stranger to the use of military assets during civil unrest during times of racial strife.  In 1962, President John F. Kennedy called in the national guard to the University of Mississippi to quell unrest around the admission of James Meredith.  Meredith was the first African-American admitted to Ole Miss.  Two people were killed during the clashes between students and guardsmen, and over 300 people were injured.

In the wake of the incident involving excessive police force used on Floyd by Minneapolis officers, one officer has been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter, while at least three others could face charges as authorities continue to investigate the incident.  Federal civil rights charges may also be pending as Floyd is black and the primary instigating officer is white.

Reaction from state and federal elected officials has been pouring in.

Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo (MS-04) supports the right to protest peacefully as the nation mourns Floyd’s death and protests the larger issues surrounding it, but has also called for those rioting and looting to be prosecuted.

“My prayers are with the family of George Floyd, and I support the right of those who choose to protest peacefully,” Palazzo, a Republican, told Y’all Politics in a statement. “Racism is intolerable in our country and I believe we can and must do better. Criminal activity and riots are unacceptable and should be stopped immediately. Those causing destruction and chaos should be prosecuted, and law and order restored.”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said in a statement on Monday evening that he, too, supports the right to protest, but he will not hesitate to “forcefully deal with those who only want disorder and violence.”

“This isn’t a game. This is our state,” Governor Reeves said.  “We will protect those who are protesting to make it better. And we will swiftly, forcefully deal with those who only want disorder and violence. They are two different groups–one we should honor and one we must prosecute.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R) called the killing of Floyd “senseless and wrong,” adding, “No human being should ever have to die the way he did, especially at the hands of an officer who had sworn to uphold the law.”

“Our commitment to the rule of law is what makes America great. I am glad to see the officer involved in Floyd’s death facing consequences so that the family and our society can receive justice,” Senator Wicker said in a statement Tuesday.  “Our commitment to the rule of law also means there is no place for rioting, looting, and burning property in our cities. Unfortunately, peaceful protests on behalf of Floyd have been hijacked repeatedly by extreme elements that have nothing to do with Floyd’s cause. These individuals are exploiting the hurt and pain felt by so many Americans to carry out senseless acts of vandalism and violence. They, too, need to be identified and face the full force of the law.”

Another Mississippi Republican Congressman, Michael Guest of the Third District, said, “America is better than this.”

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Following his remarks, the President walked from the White House across the street to St. John’s Church, which was tragically burned in Sunday night’s riots. It was a highly symbolic move, both as the nation’s commander-in-chief and in terms of the church’s impact on the civil rights movement in D.C. over 50 years ago.

 

St. John’s played a central role in the civil rights movement. According to the White House Historical Society, in August 1963’s March on Washington, the church’s rector, Rev. John C. Harper, was cautioned by church wardens to stay away from the March. He was urged to close the doors as “it might be a bloodbath.” But Harper stood boldly in support of justice.

Rev. Harper not only kept the church open, but St. John’s also planned to hold a prayer service representing their denomination as part of a call from interdenominational church councils to support the March and its participants. At 11:00 a.m. on August 28, a special service of prayer was held with 700 participants of all races filling St. John’s.  The congregants sung Hymn 533, proclaiming, “One family on earth are we / Throughout its widest span: O help us everywhere to see / The brotherhood of man.”

Afterwards, Rev. Harper sent a letter to his parishioners stating his support for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and St. John’s future policy, which reads, “…This church building is open, as it has always been, to all who want to worship here; the ministry of this parish is extended to any who seek it; our fellowship with one another has no limitations whatsoever.”

President Trump’s walk to St. John’s Church was a show of support for civil rights and peaceful protests, paying his respects and setting forth a clear line between calls for justice and the domestic terrorism playing out across the nation.

“The President made clear that he will take all necessary actions to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America. President Trump announced the mobilization of federal resources to stop the rioting, looting, arson, and destruction, and to protect the rights and property of law-abiding Americans,” the White House official said.  “The President also called on Governors to activate their National Guard at whatever numbers they need to secure their cities. Our nation was founded upon the rule of law, and President Trump will not let that foundation be eroded by violence and hate.”

On Monday, in a statement to Y’all Politics, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-03), chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, justified the acts of the rioters, calling them “expected” and saying riots can lead to “serious social reforms.”

“Protesters in Minneapolis and across the country are employing their constitutional right of free speech and the right to assemble,” Thompson, a Democrat, said.  “We are witnessing the expected result of African-Americans being brutalized and dehumanized for centuries. The police have historically tortured and murdered African-Americans at a disproportionate rate—usually with no consequence. Riots are destructive, dangerous, and scary – but can lead to serious social reforms.”

Thompson tweeted his displeasure with the President on Tuesday, stating, “It is unfortunate that the President used a church to prop up his repressive and immoral agenda against American citizens.”