OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday embraced the cause of demonstrators using “their feet and their voices” to protest the killing of George Floyd and vowed to not let the message be drowned out by those who’ve chosen to loot and wreak havoc in communities across the state.
“We just can’t allow violence to hijack peaceful protest,” Inslee said at a televised news conference.
Emotions ran high throughout the weekend and continued Monday as residents wrestled with the May 25 killing of Floyd, an African American man, by a white Minneapolis police officer, who was seen on video pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing. That officer is now facing third-degree murder charges.
“I know people are justifiably outraged at the killing,” Inslee said, “again as a result of police irresponsibility.”
But violence and destruction has no place in the demonstrations, and those arrested will be prosecuted, he said.
As Inslee discussed the situation in this state, President Donald Trump briefly addressed the nation, threatening to deploy military forces to quell unrest in states where governors fail to crack down on demonstrators.
Trump, speaking in the White House Rose Garden as tear gas canisters could be heard exploding just a block away, said he was recommending that governors deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to “dominate the streets.”
“My administration is fully committed that for George and his family, justice will be served,” Trump said. “He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries of peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob.”
Inslee ordered statewide activation of the Washington National Guard Sunday night after vandalism and mass theft in stores and shopping malls in Seattle, Bellevue, Spokane and other cities. At one point, 600 unarmed troops were deployed to assist law enforcement.
Karina Shagren, a spokeswoman for the National Guard, said that about 350 National Guard members were deployed in the state Monday, with about 20 in Spokane and the remainder in the King County metro area.
“We’re prepared,” said Major General Bret Daugherty, who heads the National Guard and joined Inslee Monday.
Earlier Monday, in a conference call with governors, Trump urged them to use greater force against demonstrators.
“You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks,” according to an audio recording posted online by The Washington Post.
Trump told the governors that states need to arrest people, try them and put them in jail for years. And Trump criticized governors for not calling up more members of the National Guard to help in what he described as a “war.”
At his news conference, Inslee called the comments by the president the “rants of a very insecure man” and said he did not respond to the president during the call “because I did not think it would be productive.”
In a written statement later, Inslee added:
“This president has repeatedly proven he is incapable of governing,” the governor said. “He has shown nothing but false bravado throughout the chaos that has accompanied his time in office. His admiration of authoritarians around the world should not allow him to violate 200 years of American tradition of local law enforcement. We have activated the National Guard in our state and made them available to any community who requests it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; email@example.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.