Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday he had no intention to send his state's National Guard to the nation's capital "for a photo-op" earlier this month, referencing President Donald Trump's controversial walk to a church outside the White House gates.
According to CNN, Northam spoke via livestream with the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and discussed the events of June 1, which involved police using force to clear Lafayette Square north of the White House before Trump visited a church and held up a Bible while posing for photographers.
"We actually had a phone conference with the president on the Monday morning [June 1]. His rhetoric was just terrible. It was divisive," Northam said.
"I saw what was getting ready to happen. Just looking at a lot of National Guard coming to Washington, being militarized, and I said, 'I'm not going to send the National Guard for a photo-op.' And that's exactly what he ended up doing later that day. So we decided, you know, after hearing that and just seeing what was going on, to keep our National Guard in Virginia."
The governor added that he used National Guard troops to help keep the peace during George Floyd protests in his own state, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington.
Floyd, who was black, died on May 25 after a white police officer in Minneapolis held a knee to his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Protests soon erupted in several U.S. cities, some of them violent.
Hours before federal law enforcement officers cleared Lafayette Park, Trump spoke to the nation's governors on a conference call and told them, "Most of you are weak. You have to arrest people."
He added, "You have to dominate, if you don't dominate you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you. You're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate."
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