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Ex-Pentagon chief blasts Trump for dividing Americans amid anti-racism protests

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 04 June 2020 8:30 AM

Former Pentagon Chief Jim Mattis has denounced Donald Trump's handling of nationwide anti-racism protests, saying the president is trying to turn Americans against each other.

Mattis said the president is trying to "divide" America and failing to provide "mature leadership" as anti-racism rallies have roiled the country.

The former Pentagon chief, who resigned in December 2018 over policy differences with Trump, broke his silence and condemned the US president in a fiery statement that was published by The Atlantic on Wednesday.

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

"We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort," said the retired general.

"I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled," Mattis said, urging Americans to "unite without" the president, who earlier this week called protesters "thugs" and threatened to call in US troops to quell the protests.

Mattis made the remarks as nationwide protests continued for the ninth straight day since the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25.

Mattis said, "Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, DC, sets up a conflict – a false conflict – between the military and civilian society."

His forceful rebuke angered Trump, who took to Twitter and said, "I didn't like his 'leadership' style or much else about him, and many others agree. Glad he is gone!" Trump wrote.

Analysts say Mattis, the retired influential Marine general, could inspire others in uniform and veterans to finally speak out against the combative commander in chief.

Mattis mostly kept silence since he left Trump's administration, arguing that it would be inappropriate and counterproductive for the him and the military to criticize a sitting president.

Esper breaks with Trump on troop deployment

Trump's Pentagon Chief Mark Esper also broke with his commander in chief over deploying troops to the streets, saying troops should not be sent to control the wave of protests, at least for now.

This has shed light on turmoil within the Trump administration, and set off concern among the Pentagon leaders, who fear to lose public support and that of their active-duty and reserve personnel, 40% of whom are people of color.

In a massage released to top military commanders on Wednesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that every member of the armed forces swears an oath to defend the Constitution, which "gives Americans the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly."

On Wednesday, police fired tear gas at mostly peaceful protesters in Los Angeles and New York City and arrested nearly 5,000 people.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in New York City, waving banners and chanting slogans 'Black lives matter."

Protesters also rallied in the streets of West Hollywood, in downtown Los Angeles, calling for justice for Floyd's death.

More than 3,000 protesters have been arrested in Los Angeles county since Friday, police said, the overwhelming majority of them for non-violent offenses.

In the city of Los Angeles alone, officers have arrested about 2,700 protesters, the Los Angeles police chief, Michel Moore said. About 200 of those arrests were for looting and acts of vandalism, while 2,500 were for failure to disperse or breaking curfew.

Los Angeles police using UCLA's baseball stadium as 'field jail'

Reports said the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) turned the University of California Los Angeles' (UCLA) Jackie Robinson Stadium to a "field jail," for those who were arrested during the Floyd protests.

A group of UCLA professors said they have received "chilling testimony" from those protesters who said their detention processed at the stadium.

The baseball stadium is "named after Jackie Robinson, an icon of the long and unfinished struggle for Black freedom," the professors wrote in an open letter.

"UCLA did not receive or authorize a request to use that space for processing arrestees," the school said in a statement seen by Reuters.

It said that the police department "has vacated the property and we informed them that future use as an arrest processing center will not be granted by UCLA."

It is not known how many people had been held at the stadium.

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