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.
Here’s the audio of the US secretary of defense referring to American streets as the “battle space” pic.twitter.com/SmqynReHTC
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) June 1, 2020
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.
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.”
Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 1, 2020
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.