President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Minnesota on September 18, 2020. (REUTERS/Tom Brenner)

US President Donald Trump on Friday (18) branded violent anti-racism protesters as a “bunch of thugs”, saying they did not spare even the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington DC.

The death of black American George Floyd who died in police custody in May had led to mass protests across the US and several parts of the world, including the UK.

Many American demonstrations turned violent, with protesters resorting to vandalism, looting and rioting.

“You know, they started ripping down Abraham Lincoln [statue],” Trump said at a well-attended election rally in Minnesota, a state that he had lost by a little over 44,000 votes in 2016.

“When they hit Lincoln, I said wait a minute. This is the man and you can do… then they hit George Washington, Thomas Jefferson… they had everybody.”

He also highlighted the vandalism of the Gandhi statue outside the Indian embassy in Washington DC.

“They even had Gandhi! All Gandhi wanted was one thing, peace. Right? We have peace. Rip down his statue. We don’t like him. I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing,” said Trump.

“I think they’re just a bunch of thugs. Okay, you want to know the truth? I think they’re a bunch of thugs.”

The president told the cheering audience that he had signed an executive order that would put vandals in jail for 10 years.

“We had a period of time when they were ripping down all of the statues and monuments, and I said to my people four months ago, I said this is crazy. These people–and they don’t even know,” Trump said.

“Now, nobody even talks about taking statues down…. because, you know why? They look and they say I want to take on that statue. I’m going to take down that statue. That statue’s coming down. And then somebody says, you know, it’s 10 years in jail. They go that’s too much. I’m getting out of here. It’s true.

“Ten years is not acceptable. Ten years is a lot to rip down a statue, have a little fun, especially when they have no idea what they’re ripping down. But we have an idea what they’re ripping down. They’re ripping down, in many cases, greatness. They’re ripping down our past. They’re ripping down our history.”

The president went on to slam protesters and pseudo-activists saying they “take away your history”.

“You look at the Middle East. You look all over. Look what ISIS did. Look what all of them do,” Trump said.

“They go down and they go to museums and they break everything and they rip everything. They want to take away your past. They are not taking away the past of the United States of America.

“Not as long as I’m here.”