US President Donald Trump has threatened to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest over the death of a black man in police custody.
He said if cities and states failed to control the protests and “defend their residents” he would deploy the army and “quickly solve the problem for them”.
The death of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis on 25 May triggered an outpouring of anger across the country.
The president delivered a brief address from the White House Rose Garden on Monday evening, and it was marked by the sound of a nearby protest being dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets.
He said “all Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd” but said his memory must not be “drowned out by an angry mob”.
Mr Trump described the scenes of looting and violence in the capital on Sunday as “a total disgrace” before pledging to bolster the city’s defences.
“I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property,” he said.
Mr Trump then turned his attention to the national protests, which he blamed on “professional anarchists” and the anti-fascist group Antifa. On Sunday, he designated Antifa as a terrorist organisation.
He called on cities and states to deploy the National Guard, the reserve military force that can be called on to intervene in domestic emergencies, “in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets”. About 16,000 of its troops have been deployed to deal with the unrest so far.
Mr Trump added: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary… then I’ll deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
“I want the organisers of this terror to be on notice that you’ll face severe criminal penalties,” he said.
His comments have drawn swift criticism from senior Democrats. Joe Biden, the party’s presumptive presidential candidate, said Mr Trump [was] “using the American military against the American people”.