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WASHINGTON – At the Kennedy Space Center over the weekend, President Donald Trump reflected the crises facing his administration: Acknowledging the "pain" felt by millions of Americans, he called for "healing, not hatred."
Forty-eight hours later, as peaceful protesters were cleared from a park near the White House, the president stood in the Rose Garden, described himself as "your president of law and order" and demanded local officials "dominate the streets" – or else.
The whipsaw shift in tone underscored a change of direction from the White House and its conservative allies: The increasingly confrontational demonstrations taking place across the USA, observers said, have given Trump an opportunity to reprise his get-tough approach to law enforcement from the 2016 campaign.
"We’re not going to solve our issues of racial inequality or feelings of economic hopelessness brought on by the coronavirus pandemic overnight, but we can stop the riots and protests with bold, definitive and unapologetic action," said Jason Miller, who served as a senior communication adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign.
The president brandished that message with a high degree of drama and controversy Monday, appearing in the Rose Garden as Secret Service and police swiftly cleared an adjacent park of protesters using smoke canisters and rubber bullets. Trump then strolled through the park to stand outside historic St. John's church, which had been vandalized the night before.
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