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St. Louis County executive says Trump ‘fanning the flames’

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Wednesday accused President Donald Trump of “fanning the flames” of violence amid days of unrest across the nation after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Although protests Tuesday night in St. Louis County were calm, Page’s comments came after four St. Louis police officers were shot and a retired St. Louis police captain was killed during violence Monday night and early Tuesday,

“The president has fanned the flames, treating this unrest as if it were a reality show,” Page said at a news conference. “It’s not, it’s really not. Our nation is divided and we need a president who can show us that our country has a kind heart.”

Trump on Monday threatened to send federal military troops to U.S. cities to quell violence that has erupted across the country since the May 25 death of Floyd. The handcuffed black man died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air and eventually stopped moving.

Page said criminals have “hijacked” peaceful protest that rightly denounce decades of law enforcement mistreatment of minorities. He said crimes committed during the protests don’t have anything to do with honoring Floyd.

St. Louis police said more than 70 businesses in the city were ransacked or broken into, including a pawn shop where retired St. Louis police Capt. David Dorn was fatally shot during a break-in.

On Wednesday, Trump posted a message on Twitter praising Dorn, who served 38 years on the St. Louis force before retiring.

“Our highest respect to the family of David Dorn, a Great Police Captain from St. Louis, who was viciously shot and killed by despicable looters last night. We honor our police officers, perhaps more than ever before. Thank you!,” the president’s message said.

Across the state in Kansas City, officials said Tuesday was the calmest night so far after four previous days of protests led to violence at night.

Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith said Tuesday police would change tactics to de-escalate tension that had grown during previous nights, and it appeared to have worked, with 20 or fewer arrests and no use of tear gas on protesters by police.

Lucas has consistently urged people concerned with police actions to contact him — even giving out his phone number — and on Tuesday he said he reviewed videos that had been sent to him, and asked the FBI and federal prosecutors to review any that might violate procedures or show misconduct.

On Wednesday, a group of mostly black religious leaders held a news conference to demand changes they said would help end police brutality in the city, including requiring all police officers to wear body cameras.

Other demands include police ending all forms of excessive force including pepper-spraying peaceful protesters; establishment of an independent police board; local control of the police department; and more community programs with police in high-crime areas.

Emanual Cleaver III, pastor at St. James United Methodist Church, said the pastors believed it was necessary to seek change because: “What happened to George Floyd was nothing new.” He said pastors trust the city will respond but if it doesn’t “we will take action,” though he declined to elaborate.

Cleaver also pleaded with white supporters to stand with black people to stop police brutality.

“It has to be more than just someone black saying something when all these things happen in minority communities,” he said.

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