The National Guard will soon send unarmed personnel to monuments and memorials around Washington, D.C., to help U.S. Park Police protect them.
President Trump and officials in the administration have blasted protesters for attacking national monuments and said law enforcement officials do not have enough resources to protect monuments during the protests that followed the death of George Floyd, who perished while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
That will soon change.
“The District of Columbia National Guard is responding to a request to support law enforcement officials and has dispatched unarmed personnel, with others on stand-by,” National Guard spokesman Maj. Robert Perino said in a statement to CNN. “Activated Guardsmen are expected to provide security for local monuments and critical infrastructure.”
Guard members are set to stay deployed through July 4 and their number may top 400, according to CNN.
A defense official says Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy signed the memo Tuesday authorizing the activation of the DC National Guard forces, after the National Park Police made a request for the assistance.
The official strongly emphasized that no Guard forces have yet been sent onto the streets and so far have all stayed inside their barracks. There are currently about 100 troops in the immediate Washington, DC, area. The activation could grow to 400 in total to rotate troops if needed. The Pentagon expects the guard forces to be used as a stopgap measure until the Justice Department can muster additional federal law enforcement pesonnel to take over the mission, the defense official said. Nonetheless it is expected the guard units will remain in the DC area through July 4th.
Trump said, on Tuesday, that he would sign an executive order to punish protesters who damage monuments to U.S. veterans, even though federal law already allows up to 10 years of prison time for such offenses.
Also on Tuesday, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said on Fox News that he had asked the Department of Defense to make the National Guard “available” if needed to protect monuments and memorials.
In early June, the Lincoln Memorial was defaced, with vandals spray-painting “Yall not tired yet?” beside the entrance steps.
— Tom Dempsey (@KCTomDempsey) May 31, 2020
The next day, dozens of National Guardsmen and federal police officers in bullet-proof vests lined the steps atop the Lincoln Memorial, facing off with a large gathering of protesters.
Trump had activated all members of D.C.’s National Guard to protect memorials and monuments in America’s capital, as well as to stem further violence from protesters and looters.
“I am taking immediate presidential action to stop the violence and restore security and safety in America,” Trump said in a White House Rose Garden speech. “I am mobilizing all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”
“I am also taking swift and decisive action to protect our great capital, Washington, D.C.,” he continued. “What happened in this city last night was a total disgrace. As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”
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