The protests, which erupted from coast to coast and even across the globe after the Memorial Day killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground with his knee for nearly nine minutes.
Developing News on Nationwide Protests
Protests on several occasions morphed into looting and destruction, an aspect of the upheaval Trump has emphasized in his remarks on the subject.
But violence at the events has largely dissipated as the protests have swelled in size, while activists have made their calls for specific police reforms and end to systemic racism clear.
The mass unrest has prompted a racial reckoning that has more than once been compared to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In recent weeks state and local governments have rushed to put in place new reforms while the White House and both parties in Congress are attempting to address the issue — Trump’s interview with Faulkner came as he traveled to Dallas and previewed a forthcoming executive order on police reform.
The president was quick to acknowledge that Floyd’s death, captured on viral video, was a “terrible thing” and a driving force for “a lot” of the protesters.
“They were there for a reason, perhaps,” he said. But he soon pivoted to questioning their motivations, observing that “a lot of them were really there because they’re following the crowd.”
Trump also pointed out that Floyd’s death at the hands of police was not a singular event, nor was the fact that there existed viral video of his final moments.
“What we saw was a terrible thing. And we’ve seen it over the years. You know, this was one horrible example, but you’ve seen other terrible examples,” he said, telling Faulkner, who is black, “You know that better than anybody would know it.”
“I think it’s a shame. I think it’s a disgrace. It’s got to stop,” the president continued.
Trump has been widely criticized for his response to the protests, making incendiary comments in which he routinely has made little effort to distinguish protesters from “thugs” or “domestic terrorists” or written them off en masse as operatives of leftist anti-fascist groups despite little evidence that they played a major role in organizing the protests.
At the same time, he has repeatedly praised law enforcement for cracking down on the events, pushing for a more militarized response to the unrest while declining to say whether he thinks there is systemic racism in law enforcement.
“[W]e have incredible people in law enforcement, and we have to cherish them and take care of them,” he said in the interview Friday. “We can’t let something like this — we have a bad apple come out and destroy the image of millions of people that take really good care of us.”
Trump went on to bash a burgeoning push on the left to defund local police departments and redirect that money to social work programs instead.
“And you have a movement where they say, ‘Let’s not have a police department.’ And you say where are these people coming from?” he asked incredulously.
Asked what kind of reforms he would like to see, the president answered: “I want to see really compassionate but strong law enforcement — police force, but law enforcement.”
Later in the interview, Faulkner pressed Trump on his economic policy, which he had previously floated as his “plan” to address systemic racism.
“I think I’ve done more for the black community than any other president and let’s take a pass on Abraham Lincoln because he did good but although it’s always questionable, you know in other words the end result,” the president responded, prompting Faulkner to quip: “Well we are free, Mr. President, he did pretty well.”