United States President Donald Trump was taken to a secure underground bunker at the White House on Friday as protests over the death of George Floyd, an African American man, intensified, the New York Times reported on Monday. An unidentified law enforcement official told CNN that First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron were also taken to the bunker.
The underground bunker inside the White House was designed for use in emergencies such as terrorist attacks. Trump spent over an hour inside, an unidentified Republican told AP.
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesperson Judd Deere. The Secret Service said that it does not discuss the methods of its protective operations.
On May 26, Derek Chauvin, a former white Minneapolis police officer, and three other officials detained Floyd after he had allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a store. Outrage grew after a widely shared video showed Chauvin kneeling for almost nine minutes on Floyd’s neck. Floyd was seen gasping for breath, pleading with the officials saying, “I can’t breathe”, and died at the spot. While all four officers were fired last week, Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Floyd’s death sparked widespread outrage and protests across cities in the US. Hundreds of people on Friday rallied outside the White House, which was briefly put under lockdown with entry and exits being shut. Crowds gathered near the White House and shouted “I can’t breathe”. The secret service agents and law enforcement officers found it difficult to contain the crowd. The protests escalated further on Sunday with the police firing tear gas to disperse the 1,000-plus crowd. Protestors also lit fire on piled up road signs and plastic barriers.
The unidentified Republican also told AP that Trump and his family were “shaken” by the size of the crowd gathered outside the White House. Late on Sunday, the White House told its staffers to hide their passes, until they reached a Secret Service entry point, CNN reported. In an email, they were also asked to hide their passes, as they left the White House. The email also said that there was still an “elevated security posture” due to the protests.
The US president, who has been widely criticised for his response to the protests, told his advisors that he was worried about his safety. Despite the major protests, Trump has not addressed the nation, but has tweeted messages.
On Saturday, Trump praised the Secret Service. He said the protestors could have been attacked with “vicious dogs and ominous weapons” wielded by the Secret Service. The president also accused the mayor for allegedly not providing police to protect the White House.
“They [the Secret Service] let the ‘protesters’ scream and rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them,” Trump said in a tweet.
“Big crowd, professionally organised, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump called those involved in the protests against Floyd’s death “thugs”.