George Floyd death: Trump ex-defence chief Mattis attacks president

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Image shows U.S. President Donald Trump and former Defence Secretary James MattisImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
James Mattis was President Donald Trump's first defence secretary - but resigned in 2018

Ex-US Defence Secretary James Mattis has denounced President Donald Trump, saying he deliberately stokes division.

He said he was "angry and appalled" by Mr Trump's handling of ongoing protests over the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of police.

Mr Mattis berated Mr Trump's "abuse of authority" - and backed protesters seeking to uphold American values, as did ex-President Barack Obama.

Mr Trump has described Mr Mattis repeatedly as an "overrated general".

Mr Mattis quit in 2018 after Mr Trump decided to pull US troops out of Syria.

He has remained mostly silent since then, until his rebuke of the Trump administration was published in The Atlantic magazine on Wednesday.

More on George Floyd's death

In response to the fresh criticism, Mr Trump posted a series of tweets in which he claimed to have fired Mr Mattis.

"I didn't like his "leadership" style or much else about him, and many others agree," he wrote. "Glad he is gone!"

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The charge against Derek Chauvin has been elevated to second-degree murder while the other three officers, previously uncharged, face counts of aiding and abetting murder.

The death has sparked huge protests across the US in recent days.

The vast majority of demonstrations over the past nine days have been peaceful, but some have turned violent and curfews have been imposed in a number of cities.

What did Mattis say?

"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people - does not even pretend to try," Mr Mattis wrote in The Atlantic. "Instead, he tries to divide us."

He continued: "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership."

Mr Mattis also addressed the recent wave of anti-racism protests.

Media caption,

White House compares Trump to Churchill in WW2

"We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers," Mr Mattis wrote. "The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values... as a nation."

The retired general - whose resignation letter in December 2018 was full of implied criticism of the president's foreign policy - also condemned the use of the military in response to the protests.

"Never did I dream that troops... would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens," he said.

"Militarising our response, as we witnessed in Washington DC, sets up a conflict... between the military and civilian society," he added.

Mr Mattis was referring to an incident earlier this week when peaceful protesters were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets from a park close to the White House.

Mr Trump then crossed the park for a photo-op at a historic church that had been damaged by fire in the unrest.

This provoked sharp criticism from top Democrats and religious leaders, who accused the president of aggressively targeting the demonstrators for the purpose of posing for photographs.

In his latest comments, Mr Mattis derided the "bizarre photo-op" and said clearing the park of demonstrators beforehand was an "abuse of executive authority".

Mr Trump has repeatedly questioned whether the protesters were peaceful and, in an earlier tweet, he said "people liked my walk to this historic place of worship".

And in an interview with his former press secretary Sean Spicer on Wednesday, the president once again defended the church visit. He said it was "handled really well" and "religious leaders loved it".

What was Mr Obama's reaction to the protests?

Media caption,

Mr Obama sees limitless potential in the faces of his fellow African Americans

Former President Barack Obama said it was vital to channel the momentum built up in the recent protests to bring about change.

In his first video comments since Mr Floyd's death, he said the demonstrations were as profound as anything he'd seen in his lifetime, and called on Americans to seize the chance to deal with the underlying problems in society.

"Too often some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you," Mr Obama said.

"I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, your dreams matter."

"There is a change in mindset that's taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better," he added.

Mr Obama did not comment directly on Mr Trump's handling of the unrest, although he urged mayors around the country to review their use-of-force policies.

Media caption,

George Floyd's ex partner: 'Gianna doesn't have a father'

Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has also issued a personal message about Mr Floyd's death, saying his life mattered and recent events had been devastating.

Protests over the death continued in dozens of cities on Wednesday night despite widespread curfews.

They have been largely peaceful, with cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago relaxing their restrictions amid hopes that the worst of the violence had passed.

A post-mortem examination has revealed that Floyd had the coronavirus in early April. But officials stressed that this played no role in his death.

US protests timeline

George Floyd dies after police arrest

Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial
Image caption Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial Image copyright by Getty Images

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe". He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

Protests begin

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Image caption Demonstrators in Minneapolis Image copyright by AFP

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

Protests spread

Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon
Image caption Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon Image copyright by Reuters

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting "I can’t breathe". Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

Trump tweets

President Trump tweets about the unrest
Image caption President Trump tweets about the unrest Image copyright by Reuters

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet.  He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for "glorifying violence".

CNN reporter arrested

Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest
Image caption Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest Image copyright by Reuters

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd
Image caption Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd Image copyright by Getty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Sixth night of protests

Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York
Image caption Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York Image copyright by Reuters

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested.  Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

Trump threatens military response

Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church
Image caption Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church Image copyright by EPA

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and "defend their residents" he will deploy the army and "quickly solve the problem for them". Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

Eighth night of protests

George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston
Image caption George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston Image copyright by Getty

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

Memorial service for George Floyd

Mourners gather to remember George Floyd
Image caption Mourners gather to remember George Floyd Image copyright by Getty

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis.  Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.

International protests

Protester addresses crowds in Australia
Image caption Protester addresses crowds in Australia Image copyright by Getty

As the US saw another weekend of protests, with tens of thousands marching in Washington DC, anti-racism demonstrations were held around the world.

In Australia, there were major protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In Bristol, protesters tore down the statue of a 17th century slave trader and threw it into the harbour.

Funeral service for George Floyd

Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church
Image caption Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church Image copyright by Getty

A funeral service for George Floyd is held in Houston, Mr Floyd’s home town. Just over two weeks after his death in Minneapolis and worldwide anti-racism protests, about 500 guests invited by the Floyd family are in attendance at the Fountain of Praise Church.  Many more gather outside to show their support.