While journalists waited in the White House Rose Garden for President Donald Trump to begin a press conference about China, the president tried to explain his disturbing tweets on the riots in Minneapolis Thursday night. Trump used the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," with the message being subsequently flagged by Twitter for violating its rules and "glorifying violence." In Trump's Friday afternoon tweets, the president said his comment was "spoken as a fact, not as a statement."
"Looting leads to shooting, and that's why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night - or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot," Trump tweeted. "I don't want this to happen, and that's what the expression put out last night means." Trump said the comments were "spoken as a fact, not as a statement," later adding, "It's very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!"
In a series of tweets late Thursday night, Trump threatened to "send in" the National Guard unless the "very weak Radical Left" mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, could "get his act together and bring the City under control." In the second part of the message, Trump wrote, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty, and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!" Twitter flagged the second tweet as violating its rules, so the Trump Administration re-posted the message on the White House Twitter account, where it was also flagged.
The "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" phrase dates back to 1967 when Miami Police Chief Walter Healey used it during hearings on crime in the city, reports NPR. At the time, the comment instantly drew anger from civil rights leaders. Professor Clarence Lusane of Howard University explained that Headley had a "long history of bigotry against" the black community, and the NAACP and other organizations complained about the treatment of blacks in Miami. "At this hearing, in discussing how he would deal with what he called crime and thugs and threats by young black people, he issued this statement that the reason Miami had not had any riots up to that point, was because of the message he had sent out that 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts,'" Lusane explained.
Headley was Miami's chief for two decades. He said his strict policy on crime was a war against "young hoodlums, from 15 to 21, who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign" and said he did not mind being criticized for "police brutality" in 1967. Headley might have been inspired to use the phrase after hearing Eugene "Bull" Connor, the infamous segregationist who used dogs and fire hoses against black protesters in Birmingham, Alabama. Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who opposed desegregation, also used the phrase in his 1968 presidential campaign.
The riots in Minneapolis began after the death of George Floyd on Wednesday. Former police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed putting his knee on Floyd's neck for four minutes until Floyd died. Chauvin and three other officers were fired. On Friday, after three nights of demonstrations, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.