Washington | Torn, hesitant, his eyes riveted on his electoral base, Donald Trump seeks the right tone in the face of the anger and the demonstrations, sometimes violent, which shake America from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
• Read also: Death of George Floyd: clashes near the White House, curfew in major cities
• Read also: Rampage in downtown Montreal after a peaceful demonstration, 11 arrests
• Read also: Washington curfew after new protests near White House
In the aftermath of a sixth night of turmoil marked by chaos in front of the White House, in a laconic tweet “NOVEMBER 3”, he posted his central concern: the presidential election.
For several days, the American president has been sending contradictory messages in the face of the conflagration of dozens of American cities after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who has become the sad symbol of police violence and racial injustice in the United States.
Since returning from Cape Canaveral on Saturday evening, Washington has been buzzing with rumors of a solemn presidential speech, of a loud speech, in a country also shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a brutal economic crisis and weakened the most deprived.
But reclusive in the White House, Donald Trump remained invisible and dumb on Sunday, except for a series of tweets aimed in turn at the media or the democratically elected democrats who lacked firmness in his eyes.
The unusual images of the late evening extinction of part of the White House’s exterior lights helped to bolster the image of a president cut off from the rest of the country.
No public appearance of the former businessman, who has been reluctant to put on rallying clothes since coming to power, is scheduled for Monday.
“An address from the Oval Office will not stop antifa,” said spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, referring to the far left movement to which Trump attributes the violence of the past few days.
In his other morning tweets, the Republican billionaire has not, far enough, opted for a calming register.
He quoted a Fox news host who blamed white supremacists for the violence of the past few days.
And he attacked his democratic opponent Joe Biden, claiming that his relatives were members of the “radical left” who are trying “to get the anarchists out of prison, and probably more.”
The specter of Charlottesville
Atlanta Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Sunday was alarmed by the White House tenant’s lack of “leaderhsip” during this period of violent jolts for America.
“It is making the situation worse (…) It is as if Charlottesville is doing it again,” she said.
The elected official spoke of Trump’s remarks after clashes between anti-racist protesters and neo-Nazis in this small town in Virginia, in August 2017, when he declared seeing good people “on both sides”.
If his statements had caused real discomfort within his own camp, the republican party has, since the death of George Floyd, remained rather discreet on the attitude of the president.
One notable exception: Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, said this weekend that some of the presidential tweets were “clearly, not constructive.”
The Republican President’s last speech was made on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was indicative of his hesitations, between empathy, calls for respect for “law and order”, and search for scapegoats.
He exposed the “tragedy” of the death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. He spoke of the “anger and grief” of Americans across the country. “I understand the pain people feel,” he added.
But after these introductory remarks, he dwelled at length on “the anarchists” without addressing head-on the question of exasperation in the face of police violence illustrated by the last words of Floyd become a rallying cry: “I can not breathe”.
His predecessor Barack Obama has published a text in which he denounces the violent acts “which put innocent people in danger”, but also calls to avoid shortcuts.
“The overwhelming majority of those taking part in the protests were peaceful, courageous, responsible and an inspiration,” he wrote.
“They deserve our respect and our support, not our condemnation,” he added in a clear allusion to his republican successor, which he was careful not to name.