Donald Trump has threatened protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” as demonstrators vowed not to back down and the nation braced itself for more violence and chaos.

After watching protests break out in more than a dozen cities on Friday, and with bigger ones planned for the weekend, the president attacked “liberal” mayors and governors and claimed the federal government would step in to control the situation if they did not.

In an indication of the way the president was thinking, the Pentagon conformed that several military police units had been placed on high alert as “as a prudent planning measure”, if they were required. So far, while state governors in places such as Minnesota have activated the state’s National Guard, they have not sought further help from Washington.

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“Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis will never be mistaken for the late, great General Douglas McArthur or great fighter General George Patton,” the president said in one of a volley of tweets.

“How come all of these places that defend so poorly are run by Liberal Democrats? Get tough and fight (and arrest the bad ones).”

In a reference to protestors that had gathered outside the White House on Friday, Mr Trump praised the Secret Service, saying that he had felt very safe.

He claimed that, had the protesters done more than “scream and rant”, 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. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action,” he said.

To some in Minneapolis, protesting over the death in custody last Monday of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, the president’s language brought to mind images of the 1960s and the darkest days of the civil rights struggle.

At that time, in places such as Alabama, which was run by white supremacist leaders such as George Wallace and Bull Connor, snarling dogs were used to threaten and attack protesters. They also used water hoses on the activists.

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“He wants to bring things back to the Sixties,” said a 60-year-old retired business owner who asked to be identified as Mr Smith, and who was listening to a succession of speakers address crowds gathered at the spot Mr Floyd was captured on cell phone footage being detained by a white police officer, who kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

“The people who started these fires are not black people. Most of them are not from the community.”

Another protester who asked to be identified as Raven, and who said she was aged 24, said Mr Trump was part of a system that needed to be completely changed. “We’re here. We’re not stopping.”

On Friday, in what many believed was an attempt to placate the protesters, officials announced that the officer seen kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, had been charged with third degree murder.

Yet three other officers who were present have not been charged with anything, something mentioned by many protesters late on Friday night as peaceful demonstrations turned ugly and a number of buildings were set on fire. Many believe more people will join the protests and officials in many cities across the country are bracing.

A 28-year-old woman called Toulaya Larson said the Minneapolis Police Department needed to be completely overhauled.

“The system is set up to protect the law enforcement officers, not the people,” she said. “It’s needs to be changed to serve the public.”

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