US President Donald Trump has praised Secret Service agents for protecting him and the White House from a group of “so-called protesters”.
A crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the White House on Friday night, calling for justice over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white policeman knelt on his neck for several minutes.
The group chanted curses at Mr Trump, while some tried to push through barriers set up by agents along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Bottles were thrown at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with pepper spray.
On Twitter, Mr Trump said he watched “every move” from inside the building and “couldn’t have felt more safe”.
“Great job last night at the White House by the US Secret Service. They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe,” he said.
“They 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,” he added.
Mr Trump described the protesters as “organised groups that have noting to do with George Floyd”.
“The professionally managed so-called ‘protesters’ at the White House had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. There were just there to cause trouble,” he said.
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The president also sparked a war of words with Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser when he accused her of refusing to let police get involved.
“On the bad side, the DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is always looking for money and help, wouldn’t let the DC police get involved. ‘Not their job.’ Nice!” he said.
Ms Bowser responded by criticising Mr Trump for hiding “behind his fence”.
“While he hides behind his fence afraid and alone, I stand with people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of George Floyd and hundreds of years of institutional racism,” she tweeted.
“I call upon our city and our nation to exercise great restraint even while this president continues to try to divide us. Our power is in peace, in our voices and ultimately at the ballot box in November.”
Anger over Floyd’s killing has spread to several cities across the United States, with protests erupting from Los Angeles to New York.
The police officer who was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday.