Religious leaders in the US and elsewhere have criticised president Donald Trump for "inflaming violence" after he posed outside a church holding a bible.
Reverend Mariann Budde, who oversees St John's Episcopal Church in Washington, said she was "outraged" by the US President's decision to use the place of worship she oversees for a photo-op during a national crisis.
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She told The Washington Post that neither she nor the rector in charge of the church - which suffered fire damage during yesterday's protests - were informed of his visit in advance, nor "that they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop".
Rev Budde went on to criticise the President for being photographed with the bible, accusing him of seeking to "inflame violence".
"Holding a bible, one that declares that God is love and when everything he has said and done is to enflame violence," she said. "I am beyond. We need moral leadership and he's done everything to divide us and has just used one of the most sacred symbols of the Judeo-Christian tradition."
Other religious leaders expressed similar sentiments.
James Martin, a Jesuit priest from New York, tweeted: "Let me be clear. This is revolting. The Bible is not a prop. A church is not a photo op. Religion is not a political tool. God is not your plaything."
Vicar of Auckland's St Matthew-in-the-City, Helen Jacobi, also expressed her dissatisfaction with president Trump's actions.
"Episcopalians (Anglicans in the US) are justifiably horrified by this hijacking of God's church and scriptures. Shameful. Blasphemous," Jacobi tweeted.
It came after Trump announced he would mobilise "heavily-armed military forces" to stop the "rioting and looting" taking place in protests across the United States, declaring the riots a "total disgrace".
In a dramatic escalation of the country's national crisis, Trump said he has recommended every US governor to deploy the National Guard to "dominate the streets" to have an "overwhelming presence" to quell the violence.
"First we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now," he said from the White House Rose Garden today.
"Today I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish and overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.
"If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them."
He said the nation has been "gripped by professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others".
The announcement follows days of violent protests that have gripped the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned down by white police officer Derek Chauvin for nearly nine minutes.
Trump described the protests in Washington DC as a "total disgrace", and said he would dispatch "thousands and thousands of heavily-armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers" to "stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property".
He also announced a strict 7pm curfew, saying "organisers of this terror … will face severe criminal penalties and lengthy sentences in jail".
"We have one beautiful law and once that is restored and fully restored, we will help you, we will help your business and we will help your family," he said.
After his address, Trump walked out of the White House and staged a televised walk to St John's Church, where thousands of protesters have been gathering.
It comes after Trump lashed out at US governors, calling them "weak" and saying they will look like a "bunch of jerks" if they don't start arresting people.
On a video conference with national security officials and top police he said "most of you are weak", according to leaked reports of the conversation.
"You've got to arrest people, you have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you'll never see this stuff again," he said.
"We're doing it in Washington, DC. We're going to do something that people haven't seen before."
Trump said the governors were making themselves "look like fools" for not putting more National Guard on the streets.
He urged leaders of New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles to crack down on protesters and suggested reviewing criminal penalties for burning the American flag.
The comments come as the US wakes in the aftermath of violent protests across the nation on Sunday night following the death of George Floyd.
DEMOCRATS HIT BACK AT TRUMP
Two Democratic governors fired back over Trump's remarks, accusing him of "inflammatory" and "dangerous" rhetoric about protests over Floyd's death.
Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker - also known as "JB" - directly challenged the President during the conference call.
"I've been extraordinarily concerned about the rhetoric that's been used by you," he told Trump, according to a transcript of their exchange tweeted by New York Times reporter Katie Rogers.
"It's been inflammatory, and it's not okay for that officer to choke George Floyd to death."
He accused Trump of making the situation "worse", noting that he had called out the Illinois National Guard and state police to deal with civil disturbances during protests over Floyd's death.
"But the rhetoric that's coming out of the White House is making it worse," Pritzker said.
"And I need to say that people are feeling real pain out there and we've got to have national leadership in calling for calm and making sure that we're addressing the concerns of legitimate peaceful protesters.
"That will help us to bring order."
Trump dismissed the criticism by suggesting that the governor had failed to respond effectively to the coronavirus outbreak in Illinois.
"OK, well thank you very much, JB," Trump replied, according to the transcript. "I don't like your rhetoric much either because I watched it with respect to the coronavirus I don't like your rhetoric much either."
"I think you could've done a much better job, frankly. But that's okay. And you know, we don't agree with each other."
Another Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, said Trump's remarks during the call were "deeply disturbing".
"Instead of offering support or leadership to bring down the temperature at protests, President Trump told governors to 'put it down' or we would be 'overridden,'" she said.
"He said governors should 'dominate' protesters, 'or you'll look like a bunch of jerks'."
"The President repeatedly and viciously attacked governors, who are doing everything they can to keep the peace while fighting a once-in-a-generation global pandemic."
"The President's dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction," Whitmer said. "We must reject this way of thinking. This is a moment that calls for empathy, humanity, and unity."
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany hit back in a statement, saying: "I don't know why Governor Whitmer would be dismayed at the President telling governors to do their job … it is their responsibility to police their streets. They have the police power ... they have quite clearly, many of them, failed to do their job."
TRUMP SLAMS BIDEN OVER PROTESTS
Protests outside the White House led to President Trump being taken to a bunker on Friday and sparked one of the highest security alerts since September 11 2001.
Earlier on Monday, Trump pointed the finger at "anarchists" and "Antifa Organisation" after a sixth night of violent protests rattled the country from the White House to Wisconsin.
The US leader took to his favourite medium, Twitter, to criticise Democratic opponent Joe Biden while tweeting the date of the upcoming election - November 3 - in a bid to galvanise his supporters.
The President also quoted Fox and Friends in saying: "These were the people that trashed Seattle years ago. Who's paying for these people. I was appalled that 13 of Joe Biden's staff were donating money to bail people out in Minneapolis. They should have stayed in jail until this is over (and beyond)."
"I don't see any indication that there were any white supremist (sic) groups mixing in. This is an Antifa Organisation. It seems that the first time we saw it in a major way was Occupy Wall Street. It's the same mindset." True!" he tweeted.
Antifa is short for anti-fascist action and is a loose network of groups opposed to fascism, white supremacy and racism, and favours direct action over policy change.
It is anti-government and anti-capitalist and is aligned more with anarchists then the mainstream political left-wing.
Trump has previously accused the group of starting riots at protests over the death of George Floyd, 46.
On Monday US time, the US woke to a day of carnage after large protests in major cities turned violent with shops looted in downtown Manhattan and the White House turned dark amid protests.
Trump was rushed to an underground bunker in the White House on Friday as protesters gathered outside the building throwing rocks and rocking barricades.
A Republican source told AP Trump and his family have been surprised by the vigour of protests and he has reportedly told advisers he feared for his family's safety.
Photos also emerged of protesters burning the US flag close to the White House. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters in Lafayette Square, a park across the street from the White House.
The crowd ran away and piled up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a nearby street. Some pulled an American flag from a building and threw it into the blaze.
As demonstrations continued past an 11pm curfew, Washington police said they were responding to multiple fires that were "intentionally set" around the city.
Floyd, died after being pinned down by white police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd told him "I can't breathe".
The mantra has been adopted by protesters who have chanted the line at rallies across US cities from Los Angeles to New York, and spread to Europe and New Zealand.