After his online comment that ;when the looting starts, the shooting starts' drew a warning label from Twitter and widespread condemnation from Democrats
US President Donald Trump on Friday tried to walk back a Twitter threat to respond with deadly force to three days of violent protests in Minneapolis over the police killing of an unarmed black man.
After his online comment that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" drew a warning label from Twitter and widespread condemnation from Democrats, Trump said he understood why the killing had sparked nationwide protests about police violence against African Americans.
But he added that they should not be allowed to turn to "lawless anarchy."
"The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters," he said at the White House. "I understand the hurt, I understand the pain."
Trump said he had expressed his sorrow to the family of George Floyd, a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election in November, has a history of inflaming racial tensions. He blamed "both sides" for violence between white supremacists and left-wing counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and has called some immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border rapists.
His early Friday tweet suggested that security forces would open fire on looters to curtail unrest over Floyd's death.
Trump said in his tweet: "These THUGS are dishonouring 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 added a notice that the message violated its rules for "glorifying violence," shortly after it appended a fact-check label to another of his tweets about mail-in ballots. It was the first time Twitter had challenged his posts.
Trump said he was not aware of the history of the phrase, which dates back to US police crackdowns on civil rights in the 1960s.
Democrats accused Trump of making the situation worse.
Trump issued his tweet amid days of turmoil in Minneapolis, which was engulfed in a third night of arson, looting and vandalism as protesters vented their rage over Floyd's death.
The four police officers involved in Floyd's death were fired before Chauvin's arrest. Attorney General William Barr said on Friday the Department of Justice, including the FBI, would investigate.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said his panel would hold a hearing to examine police use of force.
Trump's re-election campaign has identified Minnesota as a state he could win in 2020 after narrowly losing it in 2016.