Defense Secretary Calls Turmoil On America’s Streets A ‘Battlespace’ To ‘Dominate’

USA's Acting Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, arrives for his first day in his new position at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, June 24, 2019. - Esper, who served in its much-heralded 101st Airborne Division, will br... USA's Acting Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, arrives for his first day in his new position at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, June 24, 2019. - Esper, who served in its much-heralded 101st Airborne Division, will bring the soldiering experience to the Department of Defense that former acting chief Patrick Shanahan lacked. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 1, 2020 4:36 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper described American streets, which have become the site of protests and riots over the death of unarmed black man George Floyd, as a “battlespace” to “dominate” in a call on Monday.

“I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal,” Esper said in a White House call with governors, according to audio obtained by the Washington Post.

Esper and other allies of President Trump are eager to reel in protests that have swept across the country. Many of the protests have remained peaceful, with calls for racial equality and an end to police brutality. But several flash points have erupted, with looting, torching of property and violent exchanges with police.

Esper’s remarks line up with comments Trump made to the governors, urging the state executives to “dominate” the protests. Trump also called governors “weak” amid the ongoing unrest in their respective states that began last week with demands for justice and charges against all four officers for the death of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody.

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The president’s call to designate “antifa” as a domestic terrorist organization in a tweet Sunday seems to have incited some members of Congress to advocate the use of violence and force against their fellow Americans. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tweeted his desire to “hunt them down” in the tradition of Americans hunting terrorists “in the Middle East.”

After a commenter responded within minutes to Gaetz’s tweet suggesting that the tweet promoted violence, Gaetz shot back in a tone that echoed Trump’s rebuke of governors that “weakness” incites violence.

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