President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted a letter that refers to peaceful peaceful George Floyd protestors who were tear-gassed in Lafayette Square as “terrorists.”

The letter, signed by Trump’s former lawyer and veteran attorney, John Dowd, is addressed to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and comes as a response to Mattis’ Wednesday statement, condemning Trump’s threats to use active military force as a measure to handle to the nationwide protests.

“The phony protesters near Lafayette were not peaceful and are not real,” Dowd wrote in his letter. “They are terrorists using idle hate filled students to burn and destroy. They were abusing and disrespecting the police when the police were preparing the area for the 1900 curfew.”

 

Video of the Lafayette Park demonstration does not indicate any violence by the protesting crowd. Police started clearing out the demonstrators with tear gas and rubber bullets 30 minutes before the 7 p.m. curfew and moments before Trump left the Rose Garden in the White House, to stage a Bible photo-op at St. John’s Church.

After the forceful removal of the protesters, Mattis joined the criticism, calling out Trump’s approach of “law and order, “his threats to deploy military force on protesting civilians and calls for the governors to “dominate the streets.”

“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate,” Mattis said in a statement. “Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict— between the military and civilian society. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

After Mattis’ statement, Trump posted a follow-up tweet, calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated General.”

“His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog,” Trump tweets.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany joined Trump in attacking Mattis in a Twitter post. “Former Secretary Mattis’ “article” is little more than a self-promotional stunt to appease the DC elite,” she tweeted. “President @realDonaldTrump is the law and order President that has restored peace to our nation’s streets.”

On Thursday, Lafayette protesters filed a lawsuit against Trump, along with Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other law enforcement leaders for “injunctive relief and damages; violation of First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, and conspiracy to violate civil rights.)”

A wave of nationwide protests engulfed all 50 states after the death of a 46-year-old African-American man, George Floyd, who died at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, that resulted in his death. Independent autopsy results confirmed Floyd died of asphyxia due to neck and back compression. After the demonstrations, Chauvin was arrested and initially charged with third-degree murder. Charges were upgraded on Wednesday to second-degree murder. The other three officers, present at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting.