In a conference call in which President Donald Trump called governors “weak” for failing to respond to at times unruly protests against police violence and implored them to “dominate” protesters and rioters, Gov. Doug Ducey boasted about Arizona’s “more aggressive” approach and earned praise from the president.
During the Monday morning conference call, Ducey explained the actions he took following the looting of Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall on Saturday night.
“We’ve learned some lessons over the last three days. First, the more aggressive approach does work,” Ducey told Trump, according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post. “We wanted peaceful protesters to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights. We had a tough time after the sun went down figuring out who was the peaceful protester and who was the person who was going to cause trouble, destroy property or begin violent actions.”
The governor said he imposed his statewide curfew, beginning at 8 p.m. on Sunday, in response, a policy that he said paid dividends.
“We got all of our mayors, all of our police chiefs on board, and last night was a very quiet and peaceful night in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said.
Trump seemed pleased with what he heard from Ducey.
“That’s what I saw,” he said. “I saw that. Big difference. Good job, Doug.”
Many of the protesters who gathered in downtown Phoenix on Sunday night dispersed after 8 p.m., though many others remained. Phoenix police arrested about 200 people on Sunday night for a variety of offenses, including curfew violations, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and rioting.
Throughout the conference call, Trump repeatedly emphasized his belief that the governors needed to take a more aggressive approach toward the protesters and insisted that the governors looked like “fools” for allowing looting and rioting in their states.
Trump referred to the rioters and looters as “terrorists,” demanding that people arrested during the protests be given harsh prison sentences of up to 10 years. He urged the governors to use the National Guard to restore order and, during a subsequent press conference, threatened to deploy the U.S. military if governors and mayors don’t take more aggressive action.
Ducey’s office declined to comment on Trump’s statements.
Protesters have marched in many American cities over the past week, including for the past four nights in Phoenix, in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for about eight minutes. Demonstrators in Phoenix were also protesting the death of Dion Johnson, who was shot and killed by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer last week.