Trump tweeted the threat in the early morning hours on Friday after protests in the Twin Cities turned violent. On the second night of violent protests calling for justice for George Floyd, protesters swarmed the police department’s 3rd Precinct building and set it on fire.
In his tweet, Trump took aim at the protesters who had turned violent, saying he would send in the National Guard and authorize them to shoot those who are looting.
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he wrote. “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!”
Walz had already authorized the Minnesota National Guard to help in keeping order in the city, though they were not seen on Thursday as protests turned violent.
The tweet drew immediate pushback from critics who said it was out of line and improper for the president to threaten apparent deadly force against protesters, and Twitter took swift action as well. A little more than an hour after Trump published the message, Twitter hid the tweet and placed a notice saying that it was in violation of the site’s rules.
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” the message read. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Users could click on a link to view Trump’s tweet.
The action came just hours after Trump unveiled an executive order that took aim at social media companies. The order, which legal scholars said is unlikely to hold up against legal challenges, removed liability protection from social media sites and opened them to potential lawsuits for posts made there.
Trump had lashed out against Twitter after the site used its first-ever fact check this week, responding to a tweet from the president with unfounded claims about mail-in voting by adding a link to facts about this voting that contradicted Trump.
The president has accused the social media site of being biased against conservative voices and said at the unveiling of the executive order on Thursday that he would shut down the site if he had the legal authority to do so.