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Milley described George Floyd riots as ‘penny packet protests,’ book claims

General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, downplayed the riots that took place in the wake of the death of George Floyd as “penny packet protests” and pushed back against claims that it was an insurrection, a new book claims.

“Peril,” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claims that Milley was discussing the protests that erupted at the death of Floyd in Minneapolis with then-President Trump in late May 2020.

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May 28, 2020: An AutoZone store burns as protesters gather outside of the Third Precinct in Minneapolis.  (Mark Vancleave/Star Tribune via AP)

Milley reportedly pushed back against claims that the country was facing an insurrection that was “burning America down.”

“Mr. President, they are not burning it down,” he said, according to Woodward and Costa.

While it was not clear exactly when at the end of May the conversation took place, by the end of the month there had been rioting in a number of cities, often for multiple nights before authorities could restore order. More than a dozen cities instituted curfews and thousands were arrested, while thousands of National Guard members were deployed in at least 15 states.

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Fox News reported on May 31 that in New York City, at least 345 people were arrested and at least 47 police vehicles damaged or destroyed, and 33 police officers were also injured. 

In Indianapolis, two people were shot and killed as protests turned violent, while in Denver, Colo., a car rammed into a police vehicle, injuring three officers and a civilian and rioters armed with crowbars, baseball bats, assault rifles, and handguns attacked cops and protesters. It was part of a broader wave of violence and riots that would last for weeks in some cities.

When Milley spoke to Trump, however, he reportedly cited data at that time that said there had only been two cities with major protests, while elsewhere it was 20-300 protesters. 

“They used spray paint, Mr. President, that’s not an insurrection,” he said.

He then gestured to a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln and said that it was not comparable to the militia bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861.

“We’re a country of 330 million people. You’ve got these penny packet protests,” he said, before adding that the situation was not as threatening as the 1968 riots in Washington.

He also told Trump that it was not an issue for the U.S. military and then addressed systemic racism with Trump, according to the book.

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“That’s pent up in communities that have been experiencing what they perceive to be police brutality,” he said.

It was a different approach to the way he viewed the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. According to Woodward and Costa, Milley believed that incident “was indeed a coup attempt and nothing less than ‘treason.’”

He feared that Trump may be looking for a “Reichstag moment” and believed the attack “so unimagined and savage, could be a dress rehearsal for something larger” as Trump clung to the belief the election was rigged.

A spokesperson for Milley told Fox News that his office was not commenting on the book.

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