1 Jun 2020
President Donald Trump on Monday pledged to mobilize active-duty military assets to deal with growing protests nationwide, with or without the consent of local officials.
“Today, I strongly recommended that every governor deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to rule the streets,” Trump said in a nationwide address from the Rose Garden of the White House. “Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence is quelled.
“If a city or state refuses to take the necessary steps to defend the lives and property of its residents, then I will deploy the US military and quickly resolve the issue for them.
Units of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Immediate Response Force, normally stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, are also expected to deploy to Washington on Tuesday, according to three Defense Department officials who all spoke to The Associated Press under on condition of anonymity.
As Trump delivered his remarks, hundreds of protesters outside the doors of the White House chanted “George Floyd” – the African-American man killed while in custody last week, whose death sparked the current move – as local police officials used tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disrupt the rally.
In his brief remarks, Trump acknowledged Floyd’s death and promised that “justice will be served and he will not die in vain.”
But he also blamed the growing national unrest on “professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals and rioters” and vowed that these evil forces would not have free rule on the American streets.
“These are not acts of peaceful protest, they are acts of domestic terror,” he said.
On Sunday evening, several historic monuments were vandalized and set on fire as protests turned from peaceful protests to violent explosions. The windows of the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters – located about a block from the White House – were smashed by projectiles and signs around the building disfigured by swearing and anti-Trump rhetoric.
Trump announced on Monday that he would “send thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military and law enforcement to stop riots, looting, vandalism, assaults and the wanton destruction of property.”
He also pledged to use “all available federal resources, civilian and military, to stop the riots and looting.”
As Trump spoke, an incredible split-screen television developed around the White House. As he addressed the nation in the idyllic Rose Garden of the White House, a series of military vehicles marched down Pennsylvania Avenue and military police and law enforcement clashed with protesters in Lafayette Park.
These peaceful protesters were kicked out so Trump could walk through the park to St. John’s Episcopal Church, known as the “Presidents’ Church,” which was damaged by fire during a protest this past. week. Holding a Bible, he then stood with several members of his cabinet as cameras clicked, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Hours later, Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy pulled up in a caravan of Black SUVs for speaking with members of the DC National Guard, which have been activated to help suppress civility.
Milley was the only one to answer questions, telling a small group of reporters he was there to control National Guard troops, said he hoped to get the message across that everyone’s rights were protected, including including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
Earlier today, several Republican lawmakers urged the White House to address the protest issues by invoking the Insurgency Act, which allows the president to activate federal troops in an emergency to perform certain tasks of law enforcement, with or without the request of a governor.
Under the Civil War Posse Comitatus Act, federal troops are prohibited from performing domestic law enforcement actions such as making arrests, seizing property, or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurgency Act, also Civil War, which permits the use of active duty troops or the National Guard for law enforcement.
More than 17,000 National Guard troops have already been activated in 23 states and the District of Columbia to help with security and crowd control related to the protests.
Prior to that, more than 46,000 guards had been activated to help with states’ response to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to senior defense officials, between 600 and 800 National Guard members from five states have been sent to Washington to assist. These troops were already on the ground or will arrive around midnight.
Earlier today, on a conference call with governors, Trump criticized many states’ response to the protests as “weak” and insufficient. He promised to “dominate” the streets with the troops of the National Guard.
White House officials did not immediately provide details of what active duty mobilization would include. Pentagon officials have alerted certain units in recent days to prepare for possible national mobilizations.
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report, as well as reports from Military Times editor Howard Altman.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on policies relating to military personnel and veterans. His work has earned him numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.