The National Guard Bureau on Wednesday has deployed unarmed personnel in the nation’s capital to assist with additional security in guarding monuments and infrastructure amid protests over the death of George Floyd.
“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. “Activated Guardsmen are expected to provide security for local monuments and critical infrastructure.”
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.
“They remain on standby at the DC Armory at this time. They will support U.S. Park Police at key monuments to prevent any defacing or destruction,” an Army spokesman said in a statement. “The National Guard personnel will not be armed, and will serve as a uniformed deterrence and crowd management capacity to maintain closures and restricted areas.”
Guard members are expected to remain in the D.C. area through July 4 with the activation of 400 troops in total to be used in a security role until the Justice Department can muster additional federal law enforcement personnel to take over the mission.”
Statues have been toppled or defaced at various protests around the country, including figures associated with the Confederacy. In D.C. the Lincoln Memorial and WWII Memorial were defaced earlier this month with spray-painted messages that read, “Yall not tired yet? “Do Black Vets Count?” as well as “No More Black Bodies.”
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who oversees Park Police, said in an interview with Fox News Tuesday night that he personally requested the Department of Defense to make the National Guard “available” to them if needed to protect monuments.
“This evening, I requested that the — from the secretary of defense, that the National Guard be available to us to begin to protect additional monuments. Earlier today, I instructed the erection of a fence at Lafayette Plaza, as well as at St. John’s Church, and we will protect these monuments, and we will do it with dispatch and severity,” Bernhardt said, adding that law enforcement is “dealing with a savagely significant situation.”
On Monday night, protestors attempted to topple the statue of former President Jackson in Lafayette Square park, outside the White House. Metropolitan Police responded to the scene of agitators defacing the statue with the phrase “killer scum.”
President Trump responded on Twitter to the news of protestors’ activity in attempting to topple the park’s statue of President Jackson. In a series of tweets, Trump vowed to crack down on those who “vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S.,” by threatening to assert an existing statute that imposes penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
…..This action is taken effective immediately, but may also be used retroactively for destruction or vandalism already caused. There will be no exceptions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 23, 2020
The president added that he plans to issue an executive order this week to protect monuments and statues from destruction by “hoodlums” and “anarchists.”
“I will have an executive order very shortly. All it’s going to do is reinforce what’s already there, but in a more uniform way,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday before departing to Arizona. “We are looking at long-term jail sentences for these vandals and these hoodlums and these anarchists and agitators. Call them whatever you want. Some people don’t like that language, but that’s what they are. They are bad people. They don’t love our country. And they’re not taking down our monuments.”