DOWNTOWN — As Chicagoans plan protests Saturday in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mayor Lori Lightfoot had harsh words for President Donald Trump, who suggested protesters be met with gunfire in a tweet: “It starts with F and ends with U.”
Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis Police officer in an incident caught on video earlier this week. The officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness and later died. He was charged Friday with third degree murder and manslaughter.
The killing has led to protests throughout the country, including a large protest Thursday in Englewood.
“I feel angry, I feel sickened and a range of other emotions all at once,” Lightfoot said Friday. “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. We should not fear for the lives of our young ones, and mothers shouldn’t fear when their young men and women go out into the world that they’re gonna get that fateful call.”
She went on to call Trump’s response to the subsequent protests and riots in Minneapolis a “profoundly dangerous” effort to stoke racial tensions and throw “red meat” to his base while endangering the lives of Black Americans and other protesters.
“We see the game he’s playing because it’s so transparent and he’s not very good at it,” Lightfoot said. “He wants to show failures on the part of Democratic local leaders … his goal is to polarize, to destabilize local government and to enflame racist urges. And we can absolutely not let him prevail. And I will code what I want to say [to Trump] and it starts with F and ends with U.”
On Thursday night, protesters filled the streets outside a Minneapolis police station and set fire to it. Trump tweeted that the protesters were “THUGS,” and wrote: “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter put a warning on the tweet, saying it violated it rules by “glorifying violence.”
Lightfoot demanded an apology from Trump. When asked if she was concerned about Trump withholding federal assistance to Chicago, Lightfoot said she had bigger concerns.
“What I’m concerned about is a president of the United States using his bully pulpit to foment violence, that’s what I’m concerned about. There’s no other way that you can read that tweet than fomenting, encouraging violence against residents in a city or in cities across the country who are expressing themselves and exercising their First Amendment rights,” the mayor said.
“Nobody is going to sit and condone looting and violence. But to blanketly say, as the president of the United States, that you are encouraging people to be shot in the street, that’s what I’m concerned about. And frankly, everyone should be concerned about that. That’s not leadership. That’s cowardice. That’s playing to your base with the biggest dog whistle possible.”
When a reporter referenced former first lady Michelle Obama’s famous counsel of “When they go low, we go high,” Lightfoot responded: “Well, I’m not Michelle Obama.”
“I don’t take the bait every time, but this time, when we are suffering pain and trauma at the killing of a Black man in the street, the fact that he would use this opportunity to try to, for political gain and to blow the dog whistle to his base, I’m a Black woman and I’m a leader. And I feel an obligation to speak out when something as offensive as that is said by anyone, but particularly the president. And I make no apologies whatsoever for my word choice and the way in which I’m calling him our for what he said. It was wrong. It was offensive. And he should retract it and apologize.”