United States President Donald Trump on Friday told a campaign rally in Minnesota that those who protested against the murder of George Floyd were “thugs” who did not spare even the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, PTI reported. The US presidential elections are scheduled for November 3.

“You know, they started ripping down [former US President] Abraham Lincoln,” Trump claimed. “When they hit Lincoln, I said wait a minute. This is the man and you can do – then they hit George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. They had everybody.”

Trump then said the statue of Gandhi in Washington DC was vandalised by unidentified miscreants. He complained: “They even had Gandhi. All Gandhi wanted was one thing, peace. Right? We have peace. Rip down his statue. We don’t like him. I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing.” Another Gandhi statue had been vandalised in London in June.

Trump added that the actions of the protestors showed that they were “just a bunch of thugs”. The president told the gathering that he had signed an executive order that would sentence such individuals to 10 years in prison.

Trump claimed that it was due to his executive order that nobody dared to take down a statue any more. He said: “Because you know why? They look and they say I want to take on that statue. I’m going to take down that statue. That statue’s coming down. And then somebody says, you know, it’s 10 years in jail. They go that’s too much. I’m getting out of here. It’s true.”

Trump said the protestors were “ripping down our past, ripping down our history”.

He even appeared to compare the protestors to the Islamic State terror group, claiming that the demonstrators wanted to destroy American history just like the terrorist outfit did in West Asia by breaking monuments. “They are not taking away the past of the United States of America,” Trump said. “Not as long as I am here.”

Derek Chauvin, a white man and former Minneapolis police officer, killed African-American man George Floyd on May 25 by kneeling on the victim’s neck for eight minutes. Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other police officers – Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were charged with aiding and abetting the murder. Floyd’s death sparked widespread outrage and protests across cities in the US. There were some incidents of vandalism during the protests.