Corporate chains, storefront businesses, and a police station were hollowed out or set on fire by protestors in Minneapolis last night after an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, died at the hands of city police officers on Monday. President Donald Trump weighed in early Friday morning via his Twitter account.
After attacking the city’s “very weak Radical Left Mayor,” Trump said, “These thugs are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to [Minnesota] Governor Tim Waltz 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. Thank you!”
Twitter, which has been taking steps to temper the president’s frequent bursts of misinformation and outright lies as of late, responded by labeling the tweet a violation of the “Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.” Twitter also removed users’ ability to like or reply to the tweet.
In a statement released last night, Twitter said the tweet “violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”
The chilling historical context to which this refers concerns a 1967 statement from former Miami police chief Walter E. Headley, whose aggressive policing of Black neighborhoods sparked three days of riots in 1968. “We haven’t had any serious problems with civil uprising and looting,” he said at the time, “because I’ve let the word filter down that when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” Mr. Headley said at that same news conference, per the New York Times.
Twitter added that it’s leaving the tweet up “because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”
The results are already being felt, with Trump having spent this morning firing off more tweets about how the platform has “targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States.” This all comes a day after Trump began his efforts to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which, according to the Times, “shields social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms.”
This morning, the official Twitter account of the White House quoted Trump’s censored tweet word for word. That tweet has also been flagged for glorifying violence.